NIIGATA (Kyodo) Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida on Wednesday asked the Ground Self-Defense Force to dispatch troops to a city buried in snow, saying the danger of avalanches is increasing as temperatures rise.

The GSDF is expected to dispatch a team from Camp Takada in the city of Joetsu to the city of Uonuma, both in Niigata Prefecture, where more than 4 meters of snow have accumulated.

Izumida said he decided to issue the call for help because he feared avalanches might cut off the city, and there would be insufficient people to help with snow removal.

“If it rains, snow on the roofs will grow heavy and raise the risk of crushing homes. There is a limit to what local construction companies can do in removing snow,” he told a news conference.

The Meteorological Agency said Tuesday that either record or joint-record snowfall was recorded at 38 observation sites nationwide in January.

The agency said the whole archipelago was covered by its typical winter weather patterns throughout the month.

While areas facing the Sea of Japan saw heavy snow, with Uonuma having the deepest snow of 4.09 meters among all observation points, the eastern region on the Pacific side had the longest hours of blue skies in postwar history and extremely low rainfall in the reporting month, the agency said.

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