Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Winter storm turns deadly in Japan, killing two, injuring hundreds

Excerpt : Star

Associated Press Writer

TOKYO (AP): Winter storms across Japan turned deadly Tuesday as two people died in weather-related accidents, while hundreds more were reported injured in car crashes.

A severe cold front this week has moved across the length of Japan from southwestern Kyushu to its northernmost tip of Hokkaido, bringing strong winds and heavy snows that saw one train derail and dozens of domestic flights canceled Tuesday.

In northern Yamagata prefecture (state), a 67-year-old man died after falling off the roof of a two-story home in Oguni while removing snow, said local police spokesman Kazunori Furusawa.

Further south in Okayama prefecture (state), unusually frosty weather had caused roads to ice over, leading one car to slip out of control and kill a 59-year-old pedestrian in Soja city, police said.

Public broadcaster NHK, citing its own tally from bureaus nationwide, said at least 648 people had been injured, many in road accidents. The National Police Agency was not compiling statistics.

The cold snap had brought record snow falls to some areas, said Meteorological Agency spokesman Katsuaki Suzuki.

In Niigata prefecture -- where locals are still struggling to recover from a series of typhoons and a magnitude-6.8 earthquake last year that devastated the region -- 78 centimetres (2.5 feet) of snow had fallen in the past 24 hours, leaving a blanket nearly 3 metres (nearly 10 feet) deep in some areas, Suzuki said.

Earlier Tuesday, in the western port city of Kobe nearly 30 cars crashed in 10 separate accidents on a frozen highway, while another 18 cars were involved in 11 accidents in Hiroshima. At least 10 people were injured, including two seriously, local police said.

Also near Kobe, a college student crashed into a group of children on their way to elementary school after losing control of her car on a frozen road. Eight were injured, prefectural police spokesman Masahiko Furuta said.

In northern Aomori prefecture, a military transport truck carrying seven members of the Ground Self-Defense Forces crashed into a dump truck at an icy intersection in Hachinohe city while en route to training.

Six of the military personnel sustained injuries, but none were life-threatening, said local GSDF spokesman Haruhito Sakata.

The snowstorm also disrupted public transportation.

A passenger train carrying 400 people derailed in northern Niigata prefecture, but no one was injured.

Services on the Shinkansen bullet train in the western and northern regions were delayed or suspended. More than 150 domestic flights connecting Kyushu and northern Japanese cities were cancelled affecting 8,000 people, Kyodo News reported.

The Meteorological Agency predicted more snowfall of up to 90 centimetres (36 inches) in the northern Hokuriku region through Wednesday morning, warning local residents of possible snowslides on mountains and accidents due to poor visibility and frozen roads.


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