Thousands of residents in villages and towns across Japan remain stranded three days after a snowstorm, despite the military intervening to help with the clean-up.
Japanese media reported that 16 people were killed in “snow related incidents” across seven prefectures affected by the weather and thousands have been injured.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a parliamentary session on Monday: “Thanks to the weekend’s snow in Yamanashi and Nagano prefecture, some areas have received the highest levels of snow ever recorded. Due to such things as having their roofs collapse, a large number of people have lost their lives.
“We will continue to work closely with appropriate agencies and organizations to protect citizen’s and do everything in our power,” he added.
A snow storm hit Tokyo and the outlying prefectures last Friday. Parts of Yamanashi prefecture, west of Tokyo, saw more than a 1.1m of snow, the most the area has seen since records began in 1894.
The blizzard left cars on the highway stranded and, in some cases, entire villages cut off from transport as snow covered roads.
With hundreds stuck in their vehicles, some towns opened up public buildings and provided free food and warmth, especially to drivers running out of fuel. With stalled cars adding to the difficulties of the cleanup, many prefectures have asked for military help in digging up the roads.
The snow has meant that the transport of goods as well as people has been cut off, leaving supermarkets and convenience stores empty in many parts of the affected regions.
Japanese car makers, including Toyota and Honda, were forced to suspend operations after the heavy snow disrupted their supply chains and prevented workers from commuting.