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2 hikers die after attack by hundreds of Asian hornets in New Taipei

11 hikers, 4 firefighters stung by swarm of Asian hornets in mountainous area of Ruifang District

Asian hornet. (Academia Sinica Biodiversity Research Center photo)

Asian hornet. (Academia Sinica Biodiversity Research Center photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Two men died after a group of 20 hikers was attacked by hundreds of Asian hornets in a mountainous area of New Taipei City.

The hikers set out on Wednesday morning (Sept. 20) to New Taipei City's Ruifang District. While passing through the Bafenliaoshan hiking area at around 11 a.m., they were suddenly attacked by a swarm of hundreds of hornets, reported SET News.

Upon receiving a report of the attack, the fire department dispatched 20 vehicles and 51 personnel, equipped with epinephrine and ropes. In total, 11 hikers were stung by the hornets, with four of them sustaining severe injuries.

2 hikers die after attack by hundreds of Asian hornets in New Taipei
First responders place a seriously injured hiker onto a stretcher. (CNA photo)

A 66-year-old man surnamed Chiao (焦) and a 61-year-old man surnamed Hu (胡) were among the seriously injured. The two went into shock and experienced respiratory arrest while being transported down the mountain.

According to eyewitnesses, Chiao and Hu were covered in hornets after they fell to the ground. Although some fellow hikers tried to disperse the swarm, they were also attacked by the hornets.

The fire department said that after the paramedics arrived, they immediately administered epinephrine injections to alleviate the discomfort caused by the hornet stings. As the swarm of hornets had not dispersed, four firefighters were also stung.

2 hikers die after attack by hundreds of Asian hornets in New Taipei
EMT tending to hornet attack victim. (CNA photo)

Both Chiao and Hu were initially conscious, but due to the long distance required to descend from the mountain, they lost vital signs on the way. They were separately transported to Rueifang Miners Hospital and Taiwan Miner's General Hospital for emergency treatment.

Chiao arrived at the hospital without a pulse, dilated pupils, and stiff limbs, China Times cited Li Ching-fu (黎慶福), director of Taiwan Miner's General Hospital, as saying. Despite emergency efforts, he was pronounced dead at 5:58 p.m., while Hu also did not respond to treatment at Rueifang Miners Hospital and was declared dead at 6:00 p.m.

New Taipei City Animal Protection and Health Inspection Office Director Yang Shu-fang (楊淑方) told SET News that department personnel and experienced bee experts searched along the route provided by the hiking group leader for five hours. However, they were unable to locate the hornet nest.

2 hikers die after attack by hundreds of Asian hornets in New Taipei
Hiker shows swelling on fingers from stings at Keelung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital. (CNA photo)

Based on the victims' wounds and photos provided by the public, bee experts have determined that the stings were caused by the Asian hornet (Vespa velutina), also known as the yellow-legged hornet.

Yang said that Asian hornets feed on tree sap and leave their nests during the day to search for food, then return at night. At the time of the attack, the hikers were likely in the hornet colony's foraging area.

When the hikers were clearing a path by cutting branches, they may have disturbed the area around the nest and provoked the hornets, leading the swarm to attack, concluded Yang.

Yang reminded the public that autumn is the final peak season for hornet activity. When people venture into the outdoors, especially in densely wooded areas, they should pay special attention to their personal safety, he said.