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Record snow hits Japan, kills 7 and traps 1 400 vehicles for over 48 hours

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Record snowfall that hit the Hokuriku region of northwestern Japan this week killed seven people in snow-related accidents and injured at least 34. The storm brought traffic to a standstill and trapped people in 1 400 vehicles for more than 48 hours.

Record heavy snow disrupted traffic and everyday life in areas along the Sea of Japan coast, NHK reported Tuesday, February 6.

Kaga City in Ishikawa Prefecture was under 194 cm (76.4 inches) of snow as of 08:00 local time Wednesday, February 7 while the snowfall in Fukui City in Fukui Prefecture, some 320 km (199 miles) west of Tokyo, reached 134 cm (52.7 inches), the worst since 1981.

More than 60 cm (23.6 inches) of snow fell on the city in just two days and 22 cm (8.6 inches) within 15 hours ending 15:00 local time February 7. At the time, the city was under 147 cm (57.9 inches) of snow. This is seven times more than average for the region and the worst in 56 years. 

The snow trapped as much as 1 400 vehicles on a stretch of National Route No. 8 in Fukui Prefecture Tuesday night, forcing them to sleep in cars and walk for kilometers to purchase food and water. 

"We couldn’t refill our shelves. It was just a matter of time until we ran out of stock," one store owner told The Japan Times. "I hope the traffic gets taken care of quickly."

As of 09:00 local time on Thursday, February 8, 2018, there are still 310 trucks and cars stranded on the road and ground Self-Defence Forces are still trying to free trapped motorists from vehicles that created a 20 km (12.4 miles) long line, The Asahi Shimbun reports.

Rescue efforts were hampered by more heavy snow on Thursday, with meteorologists expecting up to 50 cm (19.7 inches) of new snow at many places in Hokuriku and Niigata prefectures by the end of the day.

The Japan Meteorological Agency warned residents to stay away from roads due to heavy snow and blizzard and urged caution in areas prone to avalanches. In addition, residents were warned to be extra careful during snow removal and make sure their water pipes don't freeze.

Seven fatalities and injuries were reported by local authorities in Fukui, Ishikawa, Toyama and Niigata prefectures.

Featured image credit: 北陸朝日放送公式ページ

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