January 8, 2006
Death toll from record Japan snowfall rises to 63
TOKYO -- Troops and volunteers in Japan shoveled snow from roads and roofs on Sunday as the death toll from the country's heaviest snowfall on record rose to more than 60.
Teams of troops tried to clear snow that had piled up to more than three meters in some of the worst-hit areas of Niigata prefecture and to re-open blocked roads in Nagano prefecture. Both areas are northwest of Tokyo.At least 63 people have died and over 1,000 injured since the unusually heavy snowfall began last month, Kyodo news agency said, citing a survey of local governments.
Many of the dead were elderly people who fell from their roofs while trying to clear snow, while others have been crushed when their houses collapsed under the weight of the drifts.
"It's frightening," one elderly woman in Akita City in the north of Japan's main island of Honshu told private broadcaster TV Asahi as local government workers began to shovel snow from her roof.
"There were creaking sounds and I couldn't open the doors because of the weight of the snow."
Local governments and volunteer groups were calling for people to help the elderly who were unable to deal with the situation.
Japan's Meteorological Agency warned people to take precautions against possible avalanches as fresh snow fell along the Japan Sea coast. One such avalanche blocked a road in Niigata prefecture, but no one was injured, Kyodo news agency said.
The agency is forecasting more heavy snow for northern areas along the coast, but says snowfall should begin to tail off on Monday.