Gales and blizzards leave one dead, disrupt travel


Snow, strong winds and high waves hit wide areas of Japan on Wednesday. One motorist was killed, and a number of airplane passengers were injured in heavy turbulence.

Trains and flights were severely disrupted, particularly in Hokkaido and Tohoku as a low-pressure system developed near Hokkaido.

The Meteorological Agency said storms would continue through Thursday, especially in Hokkaido and other parts of northern Japan. It warned of blizzards, tidal waves and avalanches.

In Otake, Hiroshima Prefecture, a truck driver died in a pileup on a snowy road, police said. The man’s vehicle skidded and hit a car; the drivers got out and while they were talking a second truck rammed the vehicles, crushing the victim.

On Tuesday night, 12 people aboard an American Airlines flight heading from Seoul to Dallas, Texas, were injured after the plane encountered severe turbulence and made an emergency landing at Narita airport.

Hokkaido Railway Co. said 349 trains, including commuter services and limited express trains, ground to a halt in areas such as Sapporo, Hakodate, Kushiro and Wakkanai.

East Japan Railway Co. said four bullet train services on its Akita Shinkansen Line were halted due to strong wind. The Sanyo Shinkansen Line operated services between Mihara and Kokura at reduced speed due to snowfall.

Some limited express trains were canceled due to strong winds elsewhere, particularly in Hokuriku and coastal parts of Tohoku.

Sections of highway in Hokkaido were also closed.

All Nippon Airways Co. and Japan Airlines Co. canceled more than 280 domestic flights, affecting about 17,000 passengers. The two airlines also canceled some of their international flights, including ANA Chubu-Hong Kong and JAL Shanghai-Narita services.

In Hokkaido, 4,824 houses suffered blackouts in 20 municipalities including Nemuro, where a maximum wind speed of around 144 kph was recorded on Wednesday. Residents at risk of tidal waves were evacuated, while many kindergartens and schools were closed.