Heavy snow kills 3, disrupts travel in Japan

Heavy snow kills 3, disrupts travel in Japan
A man removes snow from a sidewalk in Nagoya in Aichi prefecture, central Japan on December 18, 2014 as heavy snow hit wide areas of Japan.

TOKYO - At least three people have died in heavy snow that has blanketed swathes of Japan, reports said Thursday, with up to two metres (6ft 7ins) lying in some places and more forecast.

Two elderly women were killed on the northernmost island of Hokkaido, Kyodo News reported, with one hit by a snow-plough and another buried when a warehouse collapsed under the weight of fallen snow.

Police said a man died in a traffic accident on snow-bound roads in Hiroshima.

There was also widespread disruption to travel, with around 100 domestic flights cancelled, adding to the 450 that were grounded on Wednesday, including some international routes, officials and media said.

Reports said the famous bullet train network was also struggling to stick to its timetables.

The mountain town of Tsunan, near the Sea of Japan (East Sea) coast, was smothered in 185 centimetres of snow, with parts of Hokkaido getting as much as 70 centimetres in 24 hours, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.

The snow is accompanied by strong gusting winds of up to 140 kilometres (87 miles) an hour, which is causing tidal surges and sparking warnings to stay away from the water's edge.

Forecasters said a powerful low pressure system off the eastern coast of Hokkaido was bringing much of the misery, and warned there was more to come.

Parts of northern Honshu could expect up to 80 centimetres of snow by breakfast time on Friday, the JMA said.

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