Heavy snows continued Sunday to blanket a broad area along the Sea of Japan coast stretching from southwestern to northern Japan, and two people died in snow-related accidents while the snow shut down some expressways and other transport systems.

A 42-year-old snow boarder died after being buried in an avalanche at a ski resort in the town of Shirotori, Gifu Prefecture, and a 10-year-old boy fell to his death in the city of Kagoshima when he stepped off the roof of a 21-meter building during a snowball fight.

The snow boarder, Akinobu Naito, from Toyohashi, died after being taken to a hospital, but his friend Toshimasa Kaneda, 36, rescued himself from the avalanche, the police said.

The avalanche began outside the ski area and cascaded onto the slope. According to ski resort officials, snow has been falling since Saturday night, and at the time of the accident snow depth was at 130 cm.

In Toyama Prefecture, a 65-year-old woman mistakenly drove her car onto snow-covered railway tracks and was hit by an Osaka-bound express train from Sapporo. However, no one was injured, local police said.

The Japan Meteorological Agency warned that the bad weather is expected to continue into Monday, and that the cold air front could dump more snow mostly on areas along the Sea of Japan through Tuesday.

Along the Sea of Japan, the mountains in central Japan’s Hokuriku region are expected to get 50 cm to 70 cm of snow by Monday morning. The mountains in the Tohoku region may see 40 to 60 cm of accumulation.

Eastern Japan’s Kanto region and central Japan’s Koshinetsu region are also expected to receive 40 to 60 cm of snowfall in mountain areas.

Plains in the Tohoku and Hokuriku regions are likely to see 30 to 40 cm of snow, the agency said.

In an unusual occurrence, the vast majority of expressways in the southwestern Kyushu region were closed. Major closures included a stretch of the Kyushu Expressway between the Moji Interchange and the Kumamoto Interchange and the area from the Nagasaki Tarami Interchange to the Beppu Interchange on the Oita Expressway, according to the Japan Road Traffic Information Center.

22 vehicles buried

NAGANO (Kyodo) Massive avalanches buried 22 vehicles driving along a road in Azumi, Nagano Prefecture, in the morning, but prefectural officials said all the passengers fled or were rescued unharmed.

Some 150 people, including those who were trapped on the snow-covered road, were evacuated to a nearby hotel. Some escaped from their cars on their own, the officials said.

Nine people unable to escape on their own received assistance, local fire department officials said.

The firefighters said an ambulance and lead fire vehicle heading to the scene also became trapped in an avalanche, but that all personnel escaped unharmed.

Police said the avalanches occurred near the opening of the Hirukubo Tunnel along a 500-meter stretch of the 35.1-km-long Kamikochi-Norikura mountain road.

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