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The death toll related to snow shoveling has reached 70 this winter, a Jiji Press tally showed.

Deaths were reported in 10 prefectures — Hokkaido, Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Akita, Yamagata, Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa and Fukui.

People aged 70 or over accounted for 48 of the deaths. In many cases, older people died after falling from a roof while removing snow.

Local officials say that people should avoid clearing snow from the roof by themselves.

The tally was based on information from local governments and police from Dec. 14 to Wednesday.

Niigata had the largest number of fatalities, at 14, followed by 13 in Akita, 10 in Hokkaido and nine in Yamagata.

An official of Yuzawa, Akita Prefecture, where four deaths linked to shoveling snow have been reported, said that the snow accumulated much earlier than usual in a short period of time.

“Older people had no choice but to clear snow by themselves as they had to wait for one month to receive support from a snow removal company,” the official said.

An Akita disaster management official suggested that coronavirus travel restraints were one of the factors behind many of the fatalities.

Many residents found it difficult to remove snow from the roofs of their houses by themselves, with their family members unable to return to their hometowns during the New Year’s holiday period, the Akita official said.

“The number of people who can help with snow removal work is declining due to the county’s falling population. This is a problem for all of society,” the official added.

A Niigata official noted, “Some fatal cases could have been prevented if necessary safety measures were taken during snow shoveling, such as wearing a helmet.”

“Carrying out snow removal work alone is very risky as no one would notice even if an accident happens,” the Niigata official said, calling on residents to seek help from neighbors.

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