TOKYO - Several thousand travellers were stranded at the New Chitose Airport, as northern Japan experienced heavy snowfall for the third consecutive day, leading to the cancellation of over 280 flights.
Heavy snow in northern Japan brought transportation services to a standstill, with flights and train services cancelled and thousands of passengers forced to camp out at a regional airport for three straight nights.
Sapporo on Hokkaido Island received up to 96 centimetres, or 38 inches, of snow as of Friday night, the city's heaviest snowfall in half a century, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.
The snow blanketed the New Chitose Airport, the main gateway to the northern island region, and caused hundreds of flights to be cancelled.
Some 2,500 people were forced to stay there on Thursday night, 6,000 on Friday night and 2,600 on Saturday night, according to a security official at the airport.
The passengers' plight was compounded by the fact that most flights had been fully booked due to the holiday, national broadcaster NHK said.
More than 280 flights to and from the airport were cancelled on Friday alone, along with hundreds of train services in the region during the weekend, according to local media.
However, the weather had significantly improved by Sunday morning and most if not all the stranded passengers at the airport should be able to leave by Sunday evening, according to the security official.
Hokkaido, known for its huge mountains and powder snow, attracts scores of Australian, Chinese and Japanese ski enthusiasts.