• Kyodo

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Some 250 people who were evacuated to local inns after avalanches buried 22 vehicles along a mountain road in Nagano Prefecture on Sunday began making their descent Monday as the road was cleared of snow, local police said.

Nagano Prefectural Police dispatched some 40 officers as well as helicopters to the site of the avalanches to make sure no one was left behind.

According to local rescue officials, the avalanches occurred near the entrance to the Hirukubo Tunnel along a 500-meter stretch of the 35.1-km-long Kamikochi-Norikura mountain road from around 11:30 a.m.

The occupants of the vehicles were all rescued or managed to climb out on their own. A 46-year-old woman and a 16-year-old girl were taken to a local hospital to be treated for frostbite.

The snow stopped falling by noon Monday, and village officials checked the road to ensure it was safe after it was cleared of snow. Cars began moving at around 11:40 a.m., and people left stranded were taken by minivan down the mountain. The 10 vehicles that had been left at the avalanche sites overnight were little damaged, and all were driven away.

Snow delays 40,000

About 40,000 passengers were affected by delays Monday morning on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line due to heavy snowfall in the Tokai and Kinki regions in central and western Japan, Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) officials said.

The bullet trains ran at slower speeds between Hamamatsu Station in Shizuoka Prefecture and Shin-Osaka Station in Osaka Prefecture due to the snow, causing trains in the early morning to arrive about 40 minutes behind schedule on average, the officials said.

Although speed restrictions were eased gradually thereafter, midmorning trains were delayed about 10 to 30 minutes.

To minimize the inconvenience for passengers on the Sanyo Shinkansen Line, West Japan Railway Co. arranged for some west-bound Nozomi bullet trains from Shin-Osaka to temporarily fill in for delayed trains scheduled to run from Tokyo to Hakata, Fukuoka Prefecture.

Some 280 passengers were also stranded on a snowbound train from Sunday afternoon to early Monday on the Shinetsu Line between Niigata and Nagano prefectures, according to officials of East Japan Railway Co.’s Niigata branch.

Four passengers complained of discomfort and were taken to a hospital by ambulance, the officials said.

The three-car local train from Naoetsu to Nagano stopped at around 5:10 p.m. Sunday when it ran into a snowdrift in the section between Myokokogen Station in Niigata Prefecture and Kurohime Station in Nagano Prefecture.

The train could not be restarted because a brake on one of the cars had frozen and could not be quickly repaired, the officials said.

The passengers were eventually taken off the train between 1 a.m. and 3:35 a.m. Monday and transported to their destinations in four buses.

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