Thousands still cut off by snowfall

SDF help urged to reach remote areas that can't dig their way out

Kyodo, AFP-JIJI, Staff Report

The record snowfall that hit eastern Japan over the weekend continued to leave thousands of people stranded in remote towns in the Kanto, Tohoku and other regions on Monday.

In Hayakawa, Yamanashi Prefecture, the closure of a highway has cut off some 1,200 residents, the town office said.

Contractors removing the snow hope to reopen the road as soon as possible, but things have not gone smoothly due to the record depth of the snow, a town official said.

After receiving requests from residents, a few town officials left the office Monday morning to deliver food and water on foot but didn’t know how many houses they could reach by the end of the day, the official said. The town asked the Self-Defense Forces to send a disaster relief team Sunday night but hadn’t received an answer by Monday morning, the official said.

Also in Yamanashi, which was bombarded by over 100 cm snow, 150 hotel guests in Fujikawaguchiko were cut off from help while some 1,000 vehicles remained stuck on roads. About 700 passengers snowbound on trains on the JR Chuo Line since Friday sheltered at nearby hotels and community halls.

Due to blocked roads, food disappeared from some store shelves in the prefecture.

“I want a truck to reach here as soon as possible to deliver products,” an employee at a convenience store in Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture, said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that the government will dispatch a team to Yamanashi to gather information and provide support.

“We will work closely with related municipalities, and together with related ministries, the government will take all possible measures to protect the lives and property of the citizens,” Abe said at the Lower House Budget Committee.

Meanwhile, in Miyagi Prefecture, 2,400 residents of some 800 households in Marumori, remained isolated as of Monday.

In Tokyo, the heavy snow left about 500 residents stranded in Okutama and some 700 people in Hinohara. In Oyama, Shizuoka Prefecuture, about 80 residents remained isolated.

National Route 18, which runs northwest of the capital through Gunma and Nagano prefectures, was partially closed with hundreds of cars stuck in deep snow, a local official said. The traffic jam stretches for kilometers, said the official, who was speaking from the resort town of Karuizawa in Nagano.

“We have opened up three community halls nearby for people who fled from stranded cars and are now preparing to offer hot meals,” he said.

“Some drivers have run out of gas, so they need temporary shelter,” he added.

The mercury dipped to as low as minus 3.6 degrees Sunday morning in Karuizawa, which got a heaping 90 cm of snow, the Meteorological Agency said.

The transport ministry has started delivering water, portable toilets and other emergency aid to stranded drivers, the agency said.

In Hokuto, Yamanashi Prefecture, a trapped motorist was found dead in his vehicle Saturday morning, the prefectural police said Sunday. Police suspect he froze to death.

Also, at a parking lot in the city of Fukushima, Hiroaki Oumi, a 60-year-old resident of Fukushima, was found dead Sunday morning in his vehicle, according to Fukushima-kita Police Station. As the vehicle’s tailpipe was blocked with snow, police suspect the man died of carbon monoxide poisoning.