Record snowfall hit eastern Japan over the weekend leaving thousands of people stranded in their homes. Remote towns in the eastern region of Honshu, Japan’s main island, especially in Yamanashi Prefecture were buried under 100 cm (almost 40 inches) of snow and were requesting for help from the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) on Monday.
In the remote town of Hayakawa in Yamanashi Prefecture, the snow has caused the closure of one of its main access highways, thereby cutting off some 1,200 residents. Contractors are at the moment removing the snow to be able to make the road passable as soon as possible, but the heavy snow has made work slow. A few of the town officials have now started delivering food and water on foot. The town has reached out to the SDF to send a disaster relief team on Sunday night, but they have not received an answer yet as of Monday morning. Also in Yamanashi, over a hundred hotel guests in Fujikawaguchiko were in the same way stranded by the snow, as around 1,000 vehicles remained stuck on roads. The JR Chuo train line has been unusable since Friday, and around 700 passengers have sheltered in nearby hotels and community halls.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that the central government will be dispatching a team to Yamanashi to gather information and provide support. “We will work closely with related municipalities, and together with related ministries, the government will take all possible measures to protect the lives and property of the citizens,” Abe said.
In other affected prefectures, the situation because of the heavy snowfall has also caused a number of problems. In Miyagi Prefecture, the prefectural government says that around 2,400 residents in Marumori remained isolated as of Monday. National Route 18, which provides access to Gunma and Nagano Prefectures, was partially closed with hundreds of cars stuck in the snow. The traffic jam stretched for kilometers, said an official who went to survey the scene. “We have opened up three community halls nearby for people who fled from stranded cars and are now preparing to offer hot meals,” he said. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, temperatures on Sunday went as low as minus 3.6 degrees, causing heavy snowfall.