December 24, 2005

Heavy Japan snow kills 5, disrupts holiday traffic

TOKYO (Reuters) - Heavy snowfall throughout Japan killed
five people, disrupted holiday traffic and left thousands of
residents without electricity.

In the western prefecture of Fukui, where snow has piled up
to more than 200 cm (78 inches) in some areas, a factory
building collapsed, killing a 72-year-old man, police said.

Those who died were mostly the elderly, including a
78-year-old man who fell from a ladder while trying to remove
snow from the roof of his home in northern Akita prefecture,
police said.

Some of the heaviest snowfall on record for December has
hit the country since last week, even in some southern
prefectures that rarely see snow, but Tokyo has been spared.

In the northern prefecture of Niigata, where as many as
650,000 homes and businesses suffered a blackout last week,
about 1,100 households were left without electricity on Sunday
due to the snow, Kyodo news agency said.

The snow has also snarled train operations, including the
high-speed bullet trains used by many Japanese to spend the
holiday season back with their families.

Some 23,000 passengers were affected by delays, Kyodo said.