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Japanese survives five days in blizzard

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- A Japanese climber was rescued Thursday after surviving five days of blizzard conditions on a North Island mountain where six soldiers froze to death this week.

Joji Iwama, 27, who said he had listened apprehensively on a portable radio to details of the soldiers' deaths and his own stalled rescue efforts, was found while inching down Mount Ruapehu, 200 miles north of Wellington.

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Iwama, a restaurant worker in Auckland, climbed Ruapehu Aug. 8 and was last seen Saturday digging a snow cave to escape a blizzard.

He said after his rescue that he had planned to walk down the mountain Saturday but lost his way in the freezing conditions.

'There was a white-out and terrible freezing conditions 20 or 35 minutes after I left the snow cave,' Iwama said. 'I couldn't locate where I was walking and I decided to dig another snow cave.'

Iwama said he carried a small radio and heard of the deaths of the six soldiers who failed to survive the same blizzard while on a training mission just a few hundred yards away.

He said he also heard details of how the weather conditions were hampering efforts to locate him.

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'I really became scared and wanted to listen to every broadcast to hear how my resuce attempts were getting on,' he said.

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