120 households in Tokushima still cut off by snow


About 200 people in some 120 households in Tokushima Prefecture remained isolated Monday night as roads blocked by fallen trees and snow after heavy weekend snow had yet to be cleared.

About 170 personnel from the Ground Self-Defense Force continued work to clear roads leading to an area covering the city of Miyoshi and the towns of Tsurugi and Higashimiyoshi.

Heavy snowfall over the weekend left at least seven people dead and hundreds cut off, authorities said.

More than a meter of snow fell in some parts of the country from Friday, toppling trees and blocking roads.

In Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture, a light truck slid into a river. A couple, both aged 78, apparently managed to escape but were found dead nearby buried under snow, police said Sunday.

In Himi, also in Toyama Prefecture, a 62-year-old man was found dead in a gutter Sunday, and in the town of Eiheiji, Fukui Prefecture, a man in his 80s was found dead in deep snow.

In Tsurugi, municipal officials and GSDF personnel visited households either on foot or by helicopter to check on residents.

As of 7 p.m. Monday, about 650 households in four cities and towns in Tokushima Prefecture still had no power. Shikoku Electric Power Co. said cables and utility poles were damaged at more than 300 locations and that it was unknown when all power would be restored.

A 98-year-old woman in Tsurugi was found dead in her home Monday. She had been living alone and could not be contacted since Friday.

The woman, identified as Misako Furukawa, likely died on Saturday, the prefectural police said, adding that she had suffered from heart disease.

Miyoshi municipal officials said they still couldn’t contact a male resident, as the only road to his dwelling was blocked by fallen trees.

One problem with assessing the condition of people cut off in the towns of Tsurugi and Higashimiyoshi was that an IP phone network used in the area went down. The Internet-based service is widely used in Tokushima Prefecture.

Asked about the problems of restoring communications in Tokushima Prefecture, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko on Monday restated the difficulty of operating in severe conditions.

“More snow and rain is forecast. Please monitor the weather forecasts,” he said. “There’s the risk of accidents while moving snow, and you can also expect traffic problems. I hope everybody will remain alert.”

Some of the worst snowfall was recorded in the Tohoku and Hokuriku regions in northeastern and central Japan, where more than 1 meter of snow fell in some places.

About 80 percent of Higashimiyoshi and nearly all households in Tsurugi use IP phones, which offer cheap rates. No fee is charged for calls within the same town.

The Tokushima Prefectural Government expanded the coverage area of cable television within the prefecture, enabling the use of broadband Internet connections, ahead of television’s July 2011 transition to terrestrial digital broadcasts.

The town of Higashimiyoshi, for example, aggressively introduced cable connections to households, assigning serial numbers to individual households starting in August 2009 for the purpose.