Six die after heavy snow hits nation

Kyodo, JIJI

A total of six people have been confirmed dead after snow blanketed wide areas of Japan over the weekend, disrupting traffic and leaving about 1,200 people cut off, local authorities said Sunday.

In the city of Takaoka in Toyama Prefecture, a light truck slid into a river and a couple, both aged 78, was found dead nearby after they managed to escape, police said. They were found buried under deep snow.

In the city of Himi, also in Toyama Prefecture, a 62-year-old man was found dead in a gutter on Sunday, and in the town of Eiheiji, Fukui Prefecture, a man in his 80s died after being buried under snow.

On Saturday, two men were confirmed dead in Shikoku after they were found in the morning near the peak of Mount Kotsu in Tokushima Prefecture. They had abandoned their vehicle the day before after it became stuck in snow, local police said.

A helicopter spotted them on a trail on the 1,133-meter mountain at around 8 a.m. They later were pronounced dead at a hospital.

The two were identified as Shigehiro Takano, 43, chief priest of a temple near the mountaintop, and Masao Morimoto, 83, a temple employee, the Tokushima Prefectural Police said .

At around 9:30 a.m. Friday, the two left Takano’s home at the foot of the mountain to drive to the temple.

They called their families at 1 p.m., saying they had driven off the road. Two hours later, they said they would try to walk to the temple, but there was no contact with them after that.

As of 6 p.m. Sunday, 116 cm of snow had fallen in the Sukayu area of Aomori Prefecture, 97 cm in the village of Okura in Yamagata Prefecture and 90 cm in the village of Shirakawa in Gifu Prefecture, as cold air covered eastern and northern areas of the country, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

In mountainous areas of Tokushima Prefecture, about 1,200 people remained cut off as roads were blocked by fallen trees and rocks due to heavy snow. The Ground Self-Defense Force, which started to remove the snow and trees on Sunday, will continue to do so Monday.

About 60 domestic flights were also canceled due to adverse weather conditions.