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Rescue team traverses half of Taiwan to help stranded hikers

Authorities chide group of 8 hikers for poor planning, rule violation, splitting up

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A Hualien County Fire Department search and rescue team travels halfway around Taiwan to help stranded hikers. (Facebook, Hualien County Fir...

A Hualien County Fire Department search and rescue team travels halfway around Taiwan to help stranded hikers. (Facebook, Hualien County Fir...

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Hualien County Fire Department traveled halfway around Taiwan on a search and rescue mission after receiving a report about hikers stranded on Nenggao Mountain on Sunday evening (May 1).

The department wrote in a Facebook post that it was told two hikers from a group of eight were trapped at a campsite due to weakness and hypothermia, could only keep warm with sleeping bags due to wet clothes, and had only a day’s worth of food left. As the Central Cross-Island Highway is closed due to landslides, the fire department’s search and rescue team had to drive to Nantou County via Taipei in order to reach the trailhead at Tunyuan.

As it would take the team two days to reach Tunyuan, the mission’s command center formed by the fire department also contacted staff members at the Tianchi Lodge for help so the search and rescue mission could begin sooner. However, the Tianchi Lodge staff reported at 8 p.m. after finding the hikers’ leader that six hikers, rather than two, had been left behind.

Tianchi Lodge staff members told the command center that only the leader and one other member of the group had returned to the Tianchi Lodge, per the Hualien County Fire Department. Two hikers were trapped at Daluchi, one was confirmed to have set up camp on Kahe’er Mountain, two were near Kahe’er Mountain, and one was possibly at Taiwanchi.

The Tianchi Lodge staff changed its plan and worked overnight to bring the three hikers on Kahe’er Mountain and the one at Taiwanchi back to the lodge at the request of the hikers’ leader, but were not able to reach the two hikers trapped at Daluchi. When the fire department’s search and rescue team arrived at the Tianchi Lodge on the afternoon of Monday (May 2), the two stranded hikers had moved between Nenggao and Kahe’er mountains but were unable to move further due to weakness.

Rescue team traverses half of Taiwan to help stranded hikers
Rescuers work overnight to retrieve four hikers from the mountain. (Facebook, Hualien County Fire Department photo)

As the search and rescue team had already spent two days traveling, and considering that the hikers were able to keep warm, team members got some rest before setting out to look for the two at 3 a.m. on Tuesday (May 3). At nearly 8 a.m., the team reported that it had found the two hikers, who were in good health.

The Hualien County Fire Department thanked staff members of the Outdoor Taiwan Exploration Company Limited and Miasan Outdoor Center, who were stationed at the Tianchi Lodge, for responding to and joining the mission.

The department’s Director-General Lin Wen-rui (林文瑞) was quoted as saying that the group of hikers had not been properly prepared and had violated relevant regulations when it encountered bad weather. To make matters worse, the group had split up, which made the search and rescue mission extremely difficult.

Lin urged the public to make hiking plans according to the local governments’ regulations, pack enough food, and always be ready to respond to changing weather conditions by preparing appropriate clothes. “The mountain is always there; never take any risks,” Lin said.

Rescue team traverses half of Taiwan to help stranded hikers
A hiker replenishes energy after being found by rescuers. (Facebook, Hualien County Fire Department photo)