Flights cancelled as heavy snow hits Tokyo

TOKYO - Heavy snow struck Tokyo and other areas across Japan on Saturday, grounding nearly 300 flights and suspending some train services as the weather agency issued a severe storm warning for the capital.

Local media reported that at least 43 people were injured due to snow-related accidents.

As much as four centimetres (1.6 inches) of snow was recorded Saturday morning in Tokyo, with a rapidly developing low pressure front heading toward eastern Japan, the meteorological agency said.

Employees were hurriedly removing snow from the pavement in front of their shops and restaurants in Tokyo's bustling Ginza district.

Television footage showed hundreds of passengers queuing for reimbursement or a change of flights at Tokyo's Haneda airport with departure boards indicating the cancellation of many flights.

Further snowfall is expected Saturday afternoon in Tokyo, with up to 20 centimetres of snow expected, the weather agency said.

The agency issued a heavy snow warning for Tokyo, the first such warning for the capital in 13 years, calling on residents not to go out unless necessary.

Japan Airlines cancelled 265 domestic flights on Saturday due to heavy snow, public broadcaster NHK said.

All Nippon Airways separately cancelled 33 flights, a company spokesman said, adding that more cancellations were expected Saturday afternoon.

Airports in the western cities of Hiroshima and Kagawa were closed as operators were removing snow from the runways.

Railway operators temporarily suspended services of Shinkansen bullet trains in western Japan, NHK said.

Some sections of expressways in central Japan were also closed due to the snow, Kyodo News said.

In Tokyo, several universities delayed the starting times of their entrance examinations for the new academic year that begins in April, Kyodo added.