Snowmageddon buries northern Japan, disrupting rail and air traffic

Snowmageddon in Japan in February 2022. via Kyodo News

Heavy snow hit northern Japan on Monday, disrupting air and railway traffic, with weather authorities warning of more blizzards as well as high waves for the region and also some eastern parts of the country.

Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. canceled more than 140 flights to and from Hokkaido and elsewhere, while Hokkaido Railway Co. suspended all train runs to and from JR Sapporo Station.

More than 970 train runs were suspended in Sapporo and other areas of Hokkaido in the morning, accounting for over 70% of the some 1,230 daily train services on average in the region.

With areas near Sapporo expected to receive up to 20 inches (50 centimeters) of snow by Tuesday morning, more train services may be affected. The Hokkaido capital had seen snowfall of 4.3 inches (11 cm) in 24 hours through 6 a.m. Monday, according to the Meteorological Agency.

A traffic accident involving several vehicles occurred on the Hakodate-Esashi Expressway in Hokuto, Hokkaido, with seven people rushed to the hospital. One of them is feared dead, local rescue workers said.

Heavy snow and wind are believed to have created extremely poor visibility conditions, or a whiteout, at the site. Many vehicles have been stranded on the expressway, they said.

In Tobetsu, Hokkaido, an accident involving seven vehicles, including a tanker, left two men with minor injuries, local police said.

Up to 70 cm of snow is projected to fall on the Hokuriku region in 24 hours through 6 a.m. Tuesday, while the Kanto-Koshin region expects to see maximum snowfall of 50 cm in the same time period.

Hokkaido and the northeastern Tohoku region expect maximum wind speeds of 78 mph (126 kph), while ocean waves could reach up to 20 feet (6 meters) in height, in Hokkaido, Tohoku and Hokuriku, according to the agency.

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