Twenty-two Taiwanese tourists in Hokkaido, Japan, were rescued by the Japan Self-Defense Force on Sunday after being trapped in a tour bus for about a day by the snowstorm which has affected the country’s northeast region.
The group was scheduled to spend five days in the Hokkaido region on a trip organized by Taiwan’s Richmond Tours.
According to the tour company, the snowstorm hit when the group was on its way to a hotel in the town of Saroma, Hokkaido.
As the storm worsened, the tour bus was unable to move forward and became stuck about 1km from the hotel.
Richmond said that the Taiwanese tour leader had quickly informed the company about the situation and called Japanese police for help.
The tour leader also contacted Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau for emergency assistance, the company said.
The company said that both the Japanese police and the Japan Self-Defense Force had managed to reach the area in which the tour group was stranded on Sunday morning, adding that all the group members were safely moved to a children’s facility in the town of Tokoro to take refuge.
As the weather improved, the group continued the rest of its tour yesterday and is scheduled to return to Taiwan today, the company said.
Some of the tourists described the fear they felt when trapped on the bus in an interview with TVBS News.
“The snow was about to cover half of the tour bus,” one of the tour group said.
“We were worried that we would die here if rescuers did not come soon ... The hotel had sent a bus [to collect the tourists], but the snow clearing vehicle had also become stranded in the snow. We could only wait there in the bus and hope that there would not be an avalanche,” the tourist added.
Among the 22 Taiwanese, which comprised the tour leader and 21 tourists, two were children less than two years old.
After running out of food, the members of the group had to make do with the remaining bottled water on board the bus.
They used trash cans as toilets and turned the backseats of the bus into a temporary restroom.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has only issued a “red” alert for travelers heading to Japan’s Fukushima District, particularly the area within a 30km radius of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.
The Japanese government restricted entry to the area following the nuclear accident in 2011, the ministry said.