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Japanese firemen rescue 18 Americans trapped by heavy rain

By CHIYOMI SUMIDA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 13, 2016

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Local firemen rescued a group of American hikers who were stranded Sunday by an overflowing river in Ogimi, along the west coast of northern Okinawa, according to the Kunigami Region Firefighting headquarters.

The 18 hikers, including adults and young children, were stranded on a road that leads to Ta Waterfall, a popular visiting spot for locals and Americans on the island. The river became swollen due to heavy rain Sunday, said Seiya Shimabukuro of the fire department.

A Marine Corps public affairs official confirmed that the 18 were a mix of U.S. servicemembers, dependents and children, not part of an organized tour and not in violation of liberty policies. No identifying information was immediately available.

Sunday’s heavy rainfall, with 2.62 inches recorded at Kadena Air Base, was the heaviest recorded on the island this year, according to an official at Kadena’s 18th Wing Weather Flight.

Shimabukuro said the fire department got a call for help at 3:07 p.m Sunday. By 7:21 p.m., firefighters rescued all 18 hikers by using ropes. There was no report of injuries, Shimabukuro said.

“We are very thankful that no one was injured, and greatly appreciate the quick and professional actions of local first responders,” the Marine Corps official said in a statement.

Shimabukuro added the local fire station responds to stranded hikers near Ta Waterfall at least once a year. U.S. Forces Japan discourages servicemembers and families from touring waterfalls and surrounding areas due to moss accumulation that makes footing treacherous.

“Even (when) the skies are clear at the foot of the mountain, it is sometimes raining in the mountain, which triggers a flash flood near the falls,” Shimabukuro said.

sumida.chiyomi@stripes.com

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