- Death toll from snowstorm hits 19
- Latest storm comes days after heaviest snow in decades
- Major transport disruptions in parts of Japan
- 365 injured by heavy snowfall
Japan was hit by record snowfall again this weekend as several prefectures in the eastern part of the country reported deaths as well as severe transport delays and disruptions.
The Japan Fire and Disaster Management Agency has confirmed at least 19 deaths caused by the snowstorm across northeast Japan. At least 365 are reported to be injured from incidents caused directly by the heavy snow.
Elderly residents in Oyama in Shizuoka Prefecture were stranded in their homes following a snow dump of more than three feet (1 meter) on Friday.
Other isolated communities were also cut off, with more than 5,000 households inaccessible due to blocked roads in some mountainous areas of Yamanashi, Nagano, Saitama and Gunma prefectures as well as western Tokyo, according to the Cabinet Office.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set up emergency disaster task force to deal with the damage caused by the snow fall, according to his office. On Tuesday morning he ordered the relevant government departments to take all possible measures to avoid "anybody freez[ing] to the death due to the isolation" and to make the utmost effort "to restore lifelines and clear the roads" in those areas which are cut off.
Tokyo experienced just under a foot (27cm) of snow over the weekend, days after the capital had experienced its heaviest snowfall in decades. A highway connecting Gunma and Nagano prefectures was closed, stranding hundreds of drivers, and the national broadcaster NHK said over 600 flights, mostly domestic, across the country were also canceled.
Police said building collapses accounted for several fatalities, while in Yamanashi prefecture two men froze to death in separate incidents while trying to walk home from stranded cars.
A commuter train collision at a station on the outskirts of Tokyo was also attributed to the snow by railway operator Tokyu Corp. Around 20 passengers were left with minor injuries in the incident.
The Japan Meteorological Agency has raised advisories for much of the country, and with the storm heading northwards, sections of northern island of Hokkaido have been placed under warning of heavy snowfall and avalanches.