Central government to provide support for areas hit by heavy snow on Sea of Japan coast

Kyodo

The government said Tuesday it will do its utmost to help restore the Sea of Japan coastal region that was hit by heavy snow last week, which caused several deaths and left some 1,500 cars stranded.

The government decided to tap its special grant tax revenue to help finance local expenses — snow removal and gas distribution — in the hardest-hit areas, including Fukui Prefecture, officials said.

The government will set up a research panel aimed at increasing the effectiveness of traffic control and snow removal to prevent major congestion, transport minister Keiichi Ishii told a news conference.

Large parts of central and northeastern Japan met with more traffic-disrupting snowfall on Tuesday. The Yamagata Shinkansen was also affected.

The Meteorological Agency warned that heavy snow will continue until Tuesday night.

On Feb. 6, around 1,500 cars were stranded on a main road in Fukui, and it took days for traffic flow to resume. A driver died of carbon monoxide poisoning inside his vehicle and several others died in snow-related accidents, including an elderly man who broke his neck after apparently falling from the roof of his house while removing snow.

“We have to do our best” in tackling similar calamities, said Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Seiko Noda.

She pledged full support for regional snow clearance work by using state revenues from a special grant tax, which is allocated to cover unexpected costs such as disaster relief expenditures.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said, “We are working hard to eliminate a shortage of (fuel) provision” at some gas stations in Fukui.

He said that although prefectural gas supply has returned to normal, some gas stations are still unable to resume operations due to delayed snow removal.

Seko said the government will help out by cooperating with the Fukui Prefectural Government and wholesalers.

The agricultural sector was also hit, with the snow impacting some 500 farming facilities and barns in Hokkaido and the Hokuriku region, including Fukui and Ishikawa prefectures. Local officials have yet to determine the extent of the financial damage, according to Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Ken Saito.

Although the snow is not expected to cause major damage to harvests or affect vegetable prices at this point, greens such as spinach are not growing well due to low temperatures, Saito said, adding that if present conditions continue, prices will be affected.

“We have to carefully monitor” the situation, he said.