Japan's newest storm proves deadly

Hokkaido's record snowfall this winter could mean more problems this spring


This past weekend’s blizzard across northern Japan could be the worst they’ve seen this winter.

Hokkaido experienced winds of up to 110kph, zero visibility and a wind chill factor well into the minus digits. The winter storm that originated in northern China and continued on across Japan is just one of the many they’ve seen in the last three months.

The storm brought traffic to a standstill on the roads and stranded many. On Sunday alone, nine people were found dead in or near their vehicles.

A mother and her three children died of carbon monoxide poisoning when their vehicle’s exhaust pipe became clogged with snow. In the same town another woman was found frozen to death as it was believed that she tried to walk away from her snowed-in car.

On the tracks, Japan’s famous bullet train derailed because of the heavy snow. There were no injuries on board and passengers were safely guided off. Because of deep drifts on the rails, the train’s driver had slowed it down significantly and probably saved many lives.

In the higher regions of Hokkaido, residents are saying they have never seen so much snow in their lifetimes. Walls of snow up to 5 metres, reaching as high as power lines, are a huge concern to many because the spring thaw could cause this record snow to melt causing devastating floods.