Five Dead, Over 600 Injured as Heaviest Snow in 20 Years Hits Japan

A jetliner of Japan's All Nippon Airways taxis at Tokyo's Haneda airport covered by the heavy snow on February 8, 2014. (AFP: Kazuhiro Nogi)
A jetliner of Japan’s All Nippon Airways taxis at Tokyo’s Haneda airport covered by the heavy snow on February 8, 2014. (AFP: Kazuhiro Nogi)

The heaviest snow in two decades has struck Tokyo and other areas across Japan, leaving five dead and over 600 others injured.

More than 740 flights were grounded as the weather agency issued a severe storm for the capital, while more than 40,000 households lost power.

Up to 27 centimetres of snow has been recorded in Tokyo, making it the heaviest snowfall there since February 1994, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Meanwhile, snowfall marked a record 32 centimetres in Chiba Prefecture and 16 centimetres in Yokohama.

The agency also issued a blizzard warning for Chiba and parts of Kanagawa Prefecture.

Two elderly women, aged 88 and 90, died on Saturday in a car accident on their way to a nursing home in Ishikawa in central Japan, according to the NHK public broadcasting service. Police suspect one of the cars skidded on the icy road and caused the head-on collision.

A man was also killed in the city of Nagano as a train smashed into his car at a railroad crossing, NHK reported.

The public broadcaster reported that at least 494 people had been injured in snow-related accidents across the nation.

Further snowfall is expected Saturday night and early Sunday in Tokyo, the country’s weather agency said.

The agency issued a heavy snow warning for the capital, the first such warning for the capital in 13 years, advising residents not to go out unless necessary.

It also warned of strong winds and high waves in eastern Japan as a rapidly developing low pressure front was heading toward eastern Japan.

Japanese airline companies have cancelled 742 flights on Saturday due to heavy snow, NHK said, adding that more cancellations are expected on Sunday.

Airports in the western cities of Hiroshima and Kagawa were temporarily closed as operators removed snow from the runways.

Railway operators temporarily suspended services of Shinkansen bullet trains in western Japan, news reports said.

The Tokaido and Sanyo bullet trains operating in central and western Japan fell behind schedule as they operated at reduced speed, affecting nearly 290,000 passengers, the operators said.

Some 43,800 households lost power in large areas of central and eastern Japan because of the heavy snow, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported.

A few sections of expressways mainly in central Japan have also been closed due to the snow.

In Tokyo, several universities delayed the starting times of their entrance examinations for the new academic year starting in April.


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