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Record Snowfall Blankets Northwest Japan
Ranging from strandings to loss of life
David Michael Weber (crossfire)     Print Article 
Published 2006-01-14 21:43 (KST)   
Snow piled high on a Shinto Torii Gate in Yudanaka near Nagano
©2006 D.Weber
Along the northwest coast of Japan record snowfall has caused severe damage to property and transportation facilities. Houses and buildings have collapsed from the excess weight of snow that accumulated to such a dangerous extent. Over 80 people have died in snow-related incidents, ranging from avalanches, collapsed roofs, car accidents, to train derailments. Nearly 2,000 people have been injured so far this winter.

Snow coming down fast and heavy in the Japanese Alps
©2006 D.Weber
The snow started coming down in December, which was the coldest December for many areas since 1946. Old snowfall records have been broken, with some areas getting upwards of three meters of snow.

Long icicles hang down from a building in Nagano city
©2006 D.Weber
Tsunan, in Niigata prefecture, has so far received 394 cm of snow, breaking a previous record of 304 cm in 1996. Tsunan, along with Sakae, in Nagano prefecture, is currently cut off from the outside world. Five hundred people in 193 households are stranded in their homes.

The Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) is working to remove snow from National Route 405 in order to reach these homes. GSDF troops have also been dispatched to other areas to dig out buried roads and homes.

Snowcovered Buddha in Nagano City
©2006 D.Weber
The Japanese government has talked of lending financial support to the 900 or so municipalities that have been hit with record snowfalls, a number that is nearly 4 times the average. Local budgets are stretched thin as snowplows have already logged 150 hours of operation; two hundred hours is the average time for an entire winter season in most of these areas. Katsuyama, in Fukui prefecture, reportedly spent 300 million yen in December on snow-related expenses.

One of the main concerns is the number of isolated elderly who live in some of these sparsely populated areas. A large percent of the fatalities have been people over the age of 60.
A large pile of snow sits atop a rest shelter in Yudanaka near Nagano
©2006 D.Weber

©2006 OhmyNews
A native Tennesseean, David M. Weber is currently at the grammatical grindstone cranking out gerunds, dangling modifiers and perfecting tenses as an English teacher in Japan. In his travels, he has hiked the Inca Trail, been mugged in Mexico City, broke his leg in Switzerland, attempted to bike through Mexico and failed, climbed Pyramids in Egypt and Mexico, drank great quantities of beer at Oktoberfest and gambled at Monte Carlo.
Other articles by reporter David Michael Weber

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