As heavy snow blankets large parts of Japan, knocking out electricity to hundreds of households, disaster management officials in Japan reported on Monday that at least 17 people have been confirmed dead and more than 90 others have suffered injuries of varying degrees.
Recent days have seen persistently high snowfall in much of the country’s west coast and in Hokkaido’s northern region, hindering delivery services, stranding hundreds of vehicles on roadways, and resulting in 11 deaths by Saturday. Voice of America (VOA) reports.
Local media said that certain regions, notably the town of Oguni in the northern Yamagata region, had seen almost a meter of snowfall in just 24 hours.
Meanwhile, The country’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency reported that further snowfall over the Christmas holiday increased the number of fatalities to 17 and the number of injured victims to 93 by Monday morning.
Many of the deceased were found to have either fallen while clearing snow off roofs or to have been buried beneath high piles of snow.
NHK, a national station, reported that among the deceased were a man who died after falling from a roof while clearing snow and a woman discovered dead in a car after what was suspected to be carbon monoxide poisoning.
In Yamagata prefecture’s Nagai city, about 300 kilometers (180 miles) north of Tokyo, where snow piled up higher than 80 cm (2.6 feet), a woman in her 70s was discovered dead trapped beneath a thick pile of rooftop snow that had unexpectedly fallen on her from a rooftop, according to the disaster management agency.
Local authorities in the snow-covered areas had urged locals to exercise caution and avoid working alone when clearing snow.
On Christmas morning, about 20,000 homes were reportedly left without electricity after an electric power transmission tower was knocked down by heavy snowfall on the northernmost main island of Japan, the country’s economy and industry ministry said. However, later that day, electricity was restored to most areas.
Several flights and trains were also reportedly suspended in northern Japan through Sunday, according to the ministry of transportation, however, most operations have since been restarted.
According to the disaster management agency, three times as much snow fell in various areas of northeastern Japan as usual for the season.
The heavy snowfall, however, is expected to ease off in the coming days.