A severe snowstorm sweeping across Japan has killed 12 people and left more than 1,650 injured, Japanese media reported on Sunday, as the extreme weather sparked widespread transport chaos. At least a dozen people have died in snow-related incidents in seven prefectures after the storm broke records, with Tokyo blanketed in 27 centimetres of snow, according to Kyodo news agency.
A further 2,150 people have been evacuated from their homes over fears the weight of the snow would cause their houses to collapse, public broadcaster NHK said. At least 800 cars are stuck on a hillside trunk road in Japan and other roads nearby after they were hit by the snowstorm, officials said on Sunday.
More than 100 flights were grounded on Friday and Saturday besides disrupting several major rail services. The storm is now moving northward and is expected to strengthen by tomorrow, Japan’s meteorological agency said, warning of heavy snow, blizzards and avalanches as well as high waves in eastern and northern Japan.
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National Route 18 that runs through Gunma and Nagano prefectures north of Tokyo is partly closed as hundreds of cars are stuck due to heavy snow, a local official told AFP. The congestion extends for several kilometres, said the official in the ski resort of Karuizawa in Nagano prefecture. “We have opened up three community halls nearby for people who were inside the stuck cars, and are now preparing to offer hot meals,” he said.