Heavy snow hits northern Japan

Heavy snow hits northern Japan

TOKYO - Northern Japan was in the grip of a blizzard Wednesday as strong winds and heavy snow forced the cancellation of almost 300 flights and vehicles were buried in snow, officials and reports said.

More than 70 centimetres (28 inches) of snow had fallen on parts of the northern main island of Hokkaido in the 24 hours to 0100 GMT, according to the weather agency.

The snow storm forced two major airlines -- All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines -- to cancel at least 296 international and domestic flights, Jiji Press reported.

"We are struggling to remove snow from the street," an official in the city of Obhiro told AFP. "As many as 50 vehicles may be trapped in the snow."

A rapidly developing low pressure system is also causing storm surges in coastal Hokkaido, the Japan Meteorological Agency warned.

The agency said the blizzard will continue until Thursday.

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