Heavy snow traps over 300 vehicles in western Japan


More than 300 vehicles were stranded in the snow early Tuesday on highways and major roads along the Sea of Japan coast, prompting a request for troops to help with rescue efforts.

Roughly 200 vehicles were held up on National Route 373 in the town of Chizu, Tottori Prefecture, as of 5 a.m., while some 130 vehicles were caught on the Tottori Expressway connecting Hyogo and Tottori prefectures as of 6:40 a.m., according to highway and government officials.

As of 6:30 a.m., 20 vehicles were stuck on the Yonago Expressway that links Tottori and Okayama prefectures, although at one point, about 120 vehicles were stranded between the Kofu and Hiruzen exits. The trapped vehicles were freed later in the day.

The trouble started at around 2 p.m. Monday when trucks and other vehicles became stuck in snow, highway officials said.

Two men and a 3-year-old boy were taken to hospital after falling ill, local rescuers said. Those stranded on the national route took refuge at a public hall and other shelters.

Early Tuesday morning, Tottori Gov. Shinji Hirai requested the dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces for disaster relief. The Japan Meteorological Agency had issued a warning for heavy snowfall in the region through Tuesday evening.

Chizu recorded 85 centimeters of snowfall in the 24 hours up to 6 a.m., while the town of Daisen logged 78 cm, according to the agency.

On Tuesday, heavy snow fell on Sea of Japan coastal areas while temperatures fell to their lowest levels this winter in many parts of the country.

The village of Shimukappu in Hokkaido logged minus 32.8 degrees Celsius. The temperature in the Tokyo metropolitan area fell to minus 1.9 while Osaka logged 1.1, the Meteorological Agency said.

The agency has forecast up to 60 cm of snowfall in the 24 hours through 6 a.m. Wednesday in the Hokuriku region, 50 cm in the Tohoku and Chugoku regions, 40 cm in the Kanto region, 30 cm in the Tokai region, 25 cm in Hokkaido and the Kinki region, and 15 cm in Shikoku.

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