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On his way to the hospital where his wife was about to give birth, Naoki Tanaka was suddenly stranded by heavy snow on an expressway in Niigata Prefecture on Thursday.

Abandoning his hopes of arriving in time, Tanaka called his wife to explain the problem on the Kanetsu Expressway, where more than 2,000 vehicles, including his own, were stuck at the peak of the incident.

From her hospital bed, the wife gave him words of encouragement.

“I made her even more uneasy in the difficult time,” recalled Tanaka, a 31-year-old from Mitsuke, Niigata.

But Tanaka received a surprise from staff members of the hospital in Saitama Prefecture, where his wife’s parents live. They hastily set up an online meeting system for people who are unable to visit inpatients amid the novel coronavirus epidemic.

Connected online to the delivery room, Tanaka spoke to his wife on his smartphone to cheer her up until she gave birth to a baby girl weighing 3,190-grams, the couple’s second daughter, on Thursday afternoon.

Inside his snow-trapped car, he was able to share the joy of hearing the newborn’s first cry.

“In the first place, I’m relieved that a healthy baby was born,” Tanaka said. “I can’t thank the hospital staff enough for allowing me to be with my wife.”

To escape the expressway gridlock, Tanaka had to wait until Friday evening, 34 hours later.

After getting off the expressway, he hurried to the hospital despite his exhaustion. “I want to say sorry to my wife. I want to see her soon,” he said.

Traffic is stuck in snow near Muikamachi Interchange on the Kanetsu Expressway in Niigata Prefecture on Friday morning. | KYODO
Traffic is stuck in snow near Muikamachi Interchange on the Kanetsu Expressway in Niigata Prefecture on Friday morning. | KYODO

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