An extensive search for a woman who went missing in Skaftafell National Park on Thursday afternoon came to a happy conclusion just after midnight, Vísir reports. The woman, who is in her sixties and originally from Japan (although she’s been living in Europe for several decades), was found cold and suffering from prolonged exposure to yesterday’s harsh weather, but otherwise safe and sound.
Search and Rescue teams in Southeast Iceland were called out on Thursday evening to look for the woman, who got separated from her family around midday while hiking in Skaftafell park. According to ICE-SAR spokesperson Davíð Már Bjarnason, when the search got underway, 27 teams—or around 100 people—were searching in the area, as well as a Coast Guard helicopter equipped with heat vision. Searchers from surrounding regions then arrived with search dogs and drones. Seven hours into the search, around 11pm, even more searchers were called in from as far away as the capital area, bringing the number of searchers to 300.
Searchers were able to get a general idea of where the woman might be by tracing her cellphone, but that still left the group with an enormous area to cover: Skaftafell encompasses 4,807 km2 [1,856 m2] and is filled with hiking trails. Adding to difficulties were the high winds that the region was experiencing at the time, with speeds reaching up to 23 m/s [51 mph], and temperatures hovering around 1°C [33°F]. Weather conditions—particularly wind speeds—worsened overnight. Luckily, the woman was very well prepared for a winter hike and around midnight, she was finally found by two searchers on foot, not far from where she’d been first been separated from her family.
“She was very happy to see people,” said Friðrik Jónas Friðriksson, chair of ICE-SAR’s southwest division. “She had seen the helicopter fly over her a few times, but they didn’t see her. She didn’t know about the searchers, but there were two of them who saw her trail, followed it, and found her there, huddled up and extremely cold.”
After being taken to doctors in Höfn in Southeast Iceland, it was decided that the woman should be transported to the National and University Hospital in Reykjavík and treated for hypothermia. She is, however, otherwise unharmed and should be able to be released from the hospital after a night of observation.