23 people have already died in the worst snowstorm to hit Japan in decades. With many roads impassable, blocked by heavy snow, and railway services suspended, many have been stranded and struggling with over 1.1 meters of snow that has fallen on Yamanashi Prefecture in central Japan.
While lesser snow fell on the eastern and northeastern part of the country allowing some blocked roads to be opened last night, other towns and cities remain isolated. An estimated 5, 623 households in eight prefectures, which includes Tokyo, Shizuoka and some parts of Tohoku and Kanto-Koshin are still cut off because of the snowfall blocking roads. 23 people were left dead by the snow and its effects, including traffic accidents or by being stuck in snow that fell from roofs. There were also some reported who died from carbon monoxide poisoning as they kept their car engines’ heater switched on to keep them warm while stuck outside in the storm.
The snowfall, which is the heaviest the nation has seen in about a century, has also disrupted electricity and power in the cities. International and domestic flights were also cancelled, leaving the airports teeming with people who are unable to go anywhere. The situation was so bad in the past week that even carmaker Toyota Motor Corp. had to suspend operations at its three plants located in central Japan as supply of parts were disrupted. The company has since resumed its operations on Tuesday morning, except for one other plant that was severely hit by the snowstorm. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also called for the increase cooperation and presence of Self-Defense Forces to help in rescue and retrieval of people stuck in the snow to lessen the casualties of people freezing to death because of isolation.