45 years later, Swiss identify bodies of missing Japanese mountaineers | News | DW | 06.08.2015
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45 years later, Swiss identify bodies of missing Japanese mountaineers

DNA from human remains found last year match two Japanese climbers missing since 1970. Consular authorities identify the missing men as young men who had perished in a summer storm.

Melting glaciers retreating due to global warming have uncovered human bones on Matterhorn Mountain last September. Swiss police ordered DNA testing to see if they were among 30 missing climbers who have vanished since last century.

DNA results came back in June as two young Japanese climbers who had vanished in the Swiss Alps following an August snowstorm near Zermatt Peak in 1970.

"They had spent the night before in a hut because they wanted to ascend the north face of the Matterhorn. They were probably surprised by a snow storm when they disappeared," cantonal police spokesman Stephane Vouardoux told Reuters.

Japanese consular officials in Geneva say the bodies are of 22-year-old Michio Oikawa and 21-year-old Masayuki Kobayashi, both of whom vanished 45 years ago despite search and rescue efforts launched at the time.

The consulate had helped track down family members of the two climbers in Japan to help compare their DNA profiles. Swiss officials maintain a database of all missing climbers in the mountainous Swiss canton of Valais stretching back to 1925.

Asked whether their remains were being repatriated to their homeland, the Japanese official in Geneva, who declined to be named, told Reuters: "We are making the necessary arrangements according to the wishes of the families."

More than 500 people have been killed on the famed Matterhorn, the first ascent of which 150 years ago is being commemorated this year. The resort area and iconic peak remain especially popular with foreign climbers.

Shrinking glaciers have led to the discovery of bodies of climbers disappeared over the last few decades, Swiss police noted.

The body of British climber Jonathan Conville, missing since 1979, were found near the peak of the 4,478-metre (14,692-foot) Matterhorn last year.

jar/jil (Reuters, AP, AFP)