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from Mainichi Interactive

    Rampaging bear strikes down four in Iwate


HANAMAKI, Iwate -- Four people, three of them elderly, were injured after a berserk black bear attacked them here Monday before it disappeared back into the woods.

None of the injuries sustained were serious, but local officials are urging people in the area to be on the alert.

Members of the Hanamaki Municipal Government and a local hunting club are currently searching for the bear, which could be the same animal spotted near a hot springs resort over the weekend.

"When I first saw it, I thought it was a big black dog. But then I noticed a tuft of white hair on its chest and realized that it was a bear," said Hisako Morikawa, 71, the first of the bear's victims, who was bitten on the knee as she cut the grass in the garden of her home.

"I've lived here for decades, but it's the first time I've ever seen a bear come this close to the city."

Morikawa said the bear was about 1.4 to 1.5 meters long. She said she had just picked up some chestnuts shortly after 6 a.m. and was heading into her house when she noticed the bear about 50 meters away in some nearby woods.

The bear suddenly rushed at the old woman, who vainly tried to flee. The bear slammed into her back, knocking her to the ground. As Morikawa lay in terror, the bear nipped her knee before fleeing.

Moments later, it attacked a 31-year-old woman in the neighborhood before again making its escape. About an hour later, it set upon a 67-year-old woman about 1.3 kilometers away from the scene of the earlier attacks. It was another hour before the bear struck again, this time assailing a 75-year-old man. Having completed its rampage, the bear fled to the safety of the woods. (Mainichi Shimbun, Sept. 24, 2001)

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