The search for a 7-year-old Japanese boy missing since his parents abandoned him in a bear-inhabited forest was proving frustratingly difficult due to a lack of clues, a rescuer said Tuesday.
As the search continued for a fourth day on Japan’s main northern island of Hokkaido, two hunters joined more than 100 rescuers, police and local town officials after they found fresh bear droppings in the area, heightening concerns for the safety of the child.
But they have found no clues to the whereabouts of Yamato Tanooka, who has been missing since Saturday after his parents made him get out their car on a mountain road as punishment for misbehaving.
Yamato, his older sister, mother and father came to a park near the forest on Saturday, but the parents became angry when the boy threw stones at cars and people, Japanese police said.
On the way back home, they made Yamato get out of the car and left him alone in the forest, driving the car about 500 meters away, TV Asahi and other reports said.
“They said they went back to the site after a few minutes, but the boy was no longer there,” a local police spokesman earlier told AFP.
“We just have too little information about how the boy would have acted after being left alone,” local fire department rescuer Satoshi Saito told AFP by telephone, expressing frustration at the lack of progress so far.
“He must have been able to walk around himself, but we are having a difficult time projecting which route he would have taken and how far.”
The parents told police they abandoned Yamato on a road, bounded on both sides by thick mountain forests, but quickly returned only to find him missing.
On the northern side of the road is a slope of Mt Komagadake, with an altitude of 1,131 meters.
“Unless he started climbing the mountain, he would have hit a main road after walking for two-three kilometers in any other direction,” Saito said, adding that there are no witnesses.
The child was alone in the forest, reportedly with no food or water as heavy rain fell at night.
Footage showed scores of officers clawing through overgrown forest and tall bushes.
The boy was wearing a black jacket, navy blue pants and red sneakers when he disappeared.
Police have said they are considering filing neglect charges against his parents, according to Kyodo News.
“I feel very sorry for my child,” the father told an NTV reporter. “I am so sorry for causing trouble for many people.”
Japanese reacted with outrage on social media, condemning the actions of the parents.
“This is not punishment but abuse!” one Twitter post read. Another added: “The parents are so stupid that I am speechless.”
Many also worried about the fate of the child in the forest, alone and reportedly with no food or water as heavy rain fell overnight.
Mitsuru Wakayama, a spokesman for the nearby town of Nanae, said local residents only occasionally pass through the mountainous area as a short cut.
“Not many people or cars pass by, and it gets totally dark as there are no lights,” Wakayama said. “It’s not surprising to encounter bears anywhere in the area.”
Source: Japan Today Video and image: ANN