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Weather agency warns of heavy snowfall across Japan as cold air masses approach; two deaths reported

Kyodo

Heavy snowfall is expected across Japan over the weekend as the weather agency issued a warning Friday for many regions on the Sea of Japan coast as well as some mountainous areas on the Pacific side.

The Meteorological Agency said that with strong cold air masses approaching the archipelago, even some low-lying areas near the Pacific coast could see snow. The agency asked people to be aware of icy roads and disruption of public transportation.

At around 8 a.m. Saturday in Hiji, Oita Prefecture, a truck slipped on a road covered with snow. The accident blocked traffic and more than 20 vehicles were stuck until around 1:30 p.m.

In Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture, Seishichi Saito, 76, was found dead around 3:45 p.m. The lower part of his body was buried in snow, and police believe he fell off the roof of his garage while clearing snow that had accumulated there.

At that time, about 80 centimeters of snow had fallen on the road near the structure.

Meanwhile, near Mount Tanigawa in Minakami, Gunma Prefecture, an avalanche hit a group of three climbers on Saturday afternoon and one of them, a 29-year-old male corporate worker, was reported missing.

The other two climbers did not sustain any injuries.

Police said the three had lost their way in a blizzard.

Some locations along the Sea of Japan could also see thunderstorms and tornadoes, the agency said.

A cold air mass with a temperature of minus 39 degrees Celsius or lower at an altitude of 5,000 meters will pass over eastern Japan, while another of minus 33 or lower will cover western Japan, the agency said, noting that the expected temperatures are around 10 degrees lower than average.

Up to 70 centimeters of snowfall is expected in some places in eastern Japan before 6 p.m. Saturday, while even some areas on the southwestern main island of Kyushu could have up to 30 cm of snow over the same period, the agency said.