Japan’s worst snowstorms in five years killed three people in an avalanche at a hot springs resort and caused power cuts and transport disruptions in the northwest.
Snow has covered the northwestern side of the main island of Honshu in the past three days, including some areas that have already received twice the average annual snowfall, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. At 9 a.m. local time, there was 22 inches (55 centimeters) of snow in Iyama City in Nagano prefecture, and 13 inches in Akita City in Akita prefecture, the agency said.
Warnings of strong winds and heavy snowfall for 12 of the nation’s 47 prefectures, all facing the Sea of Japan, are in effect as of 3:42 p.m., according to the Japan Meteorological Agency’s website. Three people were killed yesterday at a resort in Semboku City in Akita, Kazuto Sato, a police spokesman, said by telephone. More than 100 cars were abandoned on a highway in Aomori prefecture after heavy snow made driving impossible, public broadcaster NHK reported.
“We have already issued a request to the Self-Defense Forces, and the government will work together and work hard to follow through on these steps,” said Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura at a press conference today in Tokyo.
The government will meet later today to discuss further steps, Fujimura said. There have been 56 deaths reported due to snow-related incidents so far this winter, the Cabinet Office said.
Strong winds and snowfall will continue for the next week along the Sea of Japan and in the southern islands of Kyushu and Shikoku, according to the Meteorological Agency’s website.
Japan’s last record snowfall was in the winter of 2005-2006. More than 139 people died in snow-related traffic accidents and roof collapses in that period, according to the Meteorological Agency.
Japan suffered losses from natural disasters last year, including an earthquake and tsunami in March that killed almost 20,000 people and Typhoon Talas that left 67 people dead.