Northern villages mull closing access to falls basins

Kunigami Village Office requested Monday the Okinawa District Forest Office to study ways to close the access path to Tanagagumui Basin, the site of a fatal accident last weekend.

The Forest Office responded stating, “We would like to find an early solution based on the request.”

On the same day, Ogimi Village decided to close Taa Taki Basin in case of heavy rain or when there is a thunderstorm warning. Their action was prompted by an incident on Friday when 33 visitors were left stranded because of a flash flood.

Kazuhisa Miyagi, the Kunigami Village Head visited Shunji Shimizu, the chief of the Okinawa District Forest Office, Monday, to request closing the basin. However, Shimizu said, “We need to check who owns the land around the basin first, then see what we can do about it.” Miyagi also said, “Actually, I would like many visitors to come to enjoy the basin, but I must think about their safety, too.”

As a first step, the Village Office decided to remove an information board about the basin located on the prefectural road 70, and to ask Okinawa Defense Bureau to alert to U.S. military about the potential danger at the site.

In addition to Saturday’s fatal accident, in which a 19-year-old female U.S. airman lost her life, there was a previous fatal accident in 2014 involving a 20-year-old male student. After the accident, the bereaved family asked the Village Office to close the access. Kunigami Village has already removed information about Tanagagumui Basin from the village website and their sightseeing guide maps.

Ogimi Village built an administrative building on the parking lot near Taa Taki basin in April to post private staff to alert visitors before the Golden Week holidays.

The basic plan for Taa Taki Basin maintenance next year includes a plan to provide wireless disaster warning system for the spot.