Fri, Dec 23, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Record snowfalls shut down parts of west, central Japan

AP , TOKYO

A truck driver died and hundreds of people were injured yesterday as a record snowfall hit western and central Japan that also left hundreds of thousands of homes without power, suspended train services and shut down an international airport, officials said.

A 31-year-old driver was killed as he crashed into another truck on a snow-covered road in western Shiga prefecture, police said, adding they were investigating if the accident was caused by negligence or snow.

At least 532 people were injured across the nation, mostly minor injuries from tripping on snow-covered ground, public broadcaster NHK said.

In Hirakata, near Osaka, five passengers suffered bruises and cuts when a bus skidded on a road, smashing into a utility pole, police spokesman Tomonori Ikezoe said.

As of yesterday, 231cm of snow had fallen in the town of Tsunan in Niigata and 216cm has fallen on Shirakawa Town in central Gifu prefecture, said Kenji Kobayashi, a researcher for the Meteorological Agency.

Train services in Niigata, about 250km northwest of Tokyo, were suspended due to power outages, according to Junpei Yamauchi, a JR East Japan spokesman.

All local and express services as well as some bullet train services in the area were halted, while some night trains linking cities on the west coast were to be canceled, Yamauchi said.

Central Japan International Airport in Aichi prefecture closed its only runway until yesterday afternoon because of the snow, airport spokesman Mitsuoki Hikota said.

More than 1.3 million households had power outages in the north-central prefecture of Niigata and in western Japan. The latter area was without power for 40 minutes yesterday morning after two generators at a nuclear power station shut down.

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