Snow blizzard kills 12 in Japan

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iol pic wldTOK302_JAPAN-_0215_11 REUTERS A man shovels snow on a street in Tokyo. Picture: Yuya Shino


Tokyo - A fresh snow blizzard in Japan has killed at least 12 people in roof collapses and other accidents and injured about 1 000, just one week after a similar deadly winter storm.

Several superhighways were closed by the snow. Hundreds of flights, mainly on domestic routes, were cancelled on Saturday in various locations including Tokyo's Haneda airport, and rail services were also hit.

The storm made landfall on the western coast Thursday. By Sunday, the sun was shining in Tokyo again and the snow was melting, but weather authorities said heavy snow and high winds were still hitting the north of Japan on the Pacific coast.

Many Japanese were captivated at the rare sight of nearly 30 centimetres of snow in the capital. Fun-lovers cruised Tokyo's Shibuya nightlife district Saturday on skis, converting a slope that is normally busy with cars into a snowboard piste and posting pictures of it to Twitter. Media attributed three of the deaths to roofs that gave way under the weight of snow.

In Saitama prefecture near Tokyo, the top of a municipal sports hall caved in. Crashes on snowed-over roads caused other deaths. Elsewhere, avalanches caused damage. In Fukushima prefecture, hard hit three years ago by an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, the snow was more than 50-centimetres deep.

Thousands of Fukushima people currently live in emergency housing because of radioactive fallout from a wrecked power plant. In a storm last week, just under 30 centimetres of snow landed on Tokyo, the heaviest snowfall there in half a century. Seven deaths and 1 000 injuries were attributed to that blizzard.


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