NIIGATA – About 1,100 vehicles were stranded on an expressway and more than 10,000 households suffered blackouts Thursday as heavy snow hit a wide area along the Sea of Japan coast, the government and police said.
The snow has disrupted multiple road and train services since Wednesday and is expected to continue to fall heavily through Friday in the region, according to the Meteorological Agency. It warned of further traffic disruptions and slippery roads.
The government has also set up a task force to deal with the snow. Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said more than 10,000 households in total had lost power in Niigata Prefecture and Hyogo Prefecture as well as in other locations.
About 1,000 vehicles were stranded on both sides of the Kan-Etsu expressway, which connects Tokyo and Niigata, its operator East Nippon Expressway Co. said.
According to the police and the operator, a line of cars stretched up to 16.5 kilometers at one point Thursday morning. The congestion was caused after a trailer got stuck in the snow near an interchange in Minamiuonuma, Niigata Prefecture, on Wednesday night.
A woman in her 30s who had been stranded in a car near an interchange in Minamiuonuma was taken to hospital after she complained of breathing difficulties, according to local rescue workers.
“I don’t have any information. I want to know what the current situation is, and at around what time I will be able to get out of this,” said a truck driver in his 40s from Niigata Prefecture, who spent the night stuck on the road as he attempted to deliver goods to Gunma Prefecture.
Some 300 vehicles were also stranded at one point on the Joshinetsu expressway, which connects the prefectures of Niigata, Nagano and Gunma, after a truck became unable to move on Wednesday night. The gridlock lasted until around 10 a.m. Thursday.
East Nippon Expressway distributed food, water and portable toilets to drivers who were stranded on the two highways.
Some areas in the country have seen record snowfall. The town of Minakami in Gunma Prefecture had 217 centimeters over a 72-hour period to Thursday morning while the town of Yuzawa in Niigata Prefecture saw over 180 cm as of 8 a.m, both said to be record levels.
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