Heavy snow blankets Japan

Record snowfall is causing widespread disruption across much of the country's west and north.

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    The amount of snow has come close to the record levels experienced in the winter of 2005 and 2006 [AFP]

    Heavy snow has left at least 53 people dead and 574 injured in western and northern Japan. The loss of life has largely occurred in five prefectures along the Sea of Japan in the Tohoku and Hokkaido region.

    Accumulation totals are now being measured in terms of metres. The city of Myoko has reported more than three metres of snow, which is fabulous news for the ski resorts [if you can get there] where the snow is always welcome.

    Meanwhile, a number of municipalities blanketed by the heavy snow are having trouble getting rid of it. Many have actually run out of funds for the snow removal and have begun urgent calls to the central government for financial assistance.

    The heavy snow has also left major scars on the infrastructure. A 95-metre long bridge in the Nagano Prefecture village of Sakae collapsed on Monday. Fortunately, there were no injuries, as the bridge was closed following last year’s earthquake.

    The amount of snow has come close to the record levels experienced in the winter of 2005 and 2006. That winter saw 152 deaths as drifts rose over 4.5 metres. This was enough to cut off mountain villages, denying emergency heating and medical supplies as roads became impassable.

    Bitterly cold winters in Japan are indicative of La Nina, as is the case at the moment. The Japan Meteorological Agency is warning of continued snowfall, mainly along the Sea of Japan. That obviously means that snow removal expenses in the region will increase further.

    This comes as yet another chapter in the long list of natural disasters to hit Japan in such a short period of time.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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