Already snowbound, Hokkaido faces worst blizzard in years


The Meteorological Agency warned Hokkaido on Tuesday to brace for its worst blizzard in years, and airlines and railways halted some operations.

As an intensive low-pressure system moved eastward near Hokkaido, the agency forecast a maximum instantaneous wind speed of 40 meters per second and 40 cm of snowfall in the 24 hours until 6 a.m. Wednesday in the region.

On Tuesday, at least 120 flights leaving or arriving at New Chitose Airport near Sapporo were canceled, and Hokkaido Railway Co. decided to halt operations of about 160 trains, including 15 express trains.

On Monday, 19 people were injured in traffic accidents in Hokkaido caused by low visibility amid the already heavy snowfall.

Tatsuki Hiratsuka, a 19-year-old contract employee, was found unconscious Monday inside a parked car in Obihiro, Hokkaido, and was later confirmed dead of carbon monoxide poisoning. The car had been buried under a pile of snow, leading police to suspect the tailpipe had been blocked and the vehicle became filled with exhaust fumes.

An express train was stuck in snow for 4½ hours in Wakkanai, Hokkaido, on Monday, forcing JR Hokkaido to halt all trains between Wakkanai and Horonobe throughout the day.