In Japan, 41 people have been killed this year by freak snowfalls, the worst since 1963.
In Japan, 41 people have been killed this year by freak snowfalls, the worst since 1963. Air and rail services have been disrupted, and several buildings damaged.
SYNOPSIS: Many areas of northern Japan have been paralysed, and on Tuesday (8 February) the government set up a special ministerial headquarters to handle relief operations. It will ensure the supply of medicines, main and other daily needs.
Children in the northern city of Aomori had a holiday this week as all the elementary and junior high schools closed down. Shovelling snow in the schoolyard made a welcome break from lessons. But it wasn't all fun. Nearly half a million pupils in Japan had influenza last week. If the weathermen are right, they could be in for even more time off - heavy snowfalls and severe cold until the middle of the month have been predicted. Over seven and a half feet of snow (about 190 cms) has fallen on Amomori this week alone.
The roof of this gymnasium collapsed under the weight of the snowfalls - luckily it was empty at the time.
But more than 200 people have been injured in other parts of northern Japan, 17 houses have been destroyed and many other buildings damaged.
Motorists whose cars are stranded, or crippled with broken radiators, have at least one consolation - the parking meters are out of action too, almost entirely buried in the snow. If the bad weather continues, posting a letter could soon become impossible without a shovel to find the post box. The snow has been accompanied by unusually cold weather. In the far north of the country temperatures have plunged to minus 38 degrees Centigrade (36.4 Fahrenheit), and last month was the coldest in Japan for 32 years. Many of those who have died have been old people, who have been found eventually in deep snow-drifts near their homes.