Japan comes to standstill during big freeze


Heavy snowfall, caused by a cold weather front and extremely low-pressure systems, continued to cover large parts of Japan on Wednesday, stalling traffic, forcing hundreds of flight cancellations, disrupting train travel and leaving at least one person dead.

Snow was particularly heavy on the side of the nation facing the Sea of Japan, with the city of Maniwa in western Japan hit with a record 93 cm of snow in 24 hours on Wednesday.

One person had died as a result of the storm and two other deaths were being investigated as related to the storm, chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said during a press conference.

Problems caused by the weather

Domestic airlines including ANA and Japan Airlines cancelled more than 300 flights, while bullet train services were suspended or delayed in northern Japan, media reported.

On a highway in central Japan, cars and trucks were unable to move in the snow over a distance of about 10 km, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said. Some 3,000 people were stranded at two train stations in the western city of Kyoto after snow and high winds forced service to be suspended on Tuesday, with some passengers forced to sleep on the floor at Kyoto’s main station.

Others were stuck on at least 15 trains between stations, in some cases from late on Tuesday to the early hours of Wednesday, with some having to hike through the snow to reach a station where shelter had been arranged, NHK added.

Furthermore, strong winds may have caused the sinking of a Hong Kong-registered cargo ship between western Japan and South Korea’s Jeju island early on Wednesday. Thirteen of the 22 crew members had been rescued by noon on Wednesday and the search was continuing.

The unforgiving weather is expected to continue through Thursday.