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Two dead, 89 injured as heavy snow hits Japan

Heavy snow and severe weather struck Tokyo and other areas across Japan on Saturday, leaving two dead and around 90 injured, reports said.

TOKYO: Heavy snow and severe weather struck Tokyo and other areas across Japan on Saturday, leaving two dead and around 90 injured, reports said.

More than 600 flights were grounded as the weather agency issued a severe storm warning for the capital.

As much as 12 centimetres (4.8 inches) of snow was recorded Saturday afternoon in Tokyo, with a rapidly developing low pressure front heading toward eastern Japan, the meteorological agency said.

Public broadcaster NHK said at least 89 people were injured in snow-related accidents only in eastern Japan, including 17 serious injuries.

It also said two female passengers, aged 88 and 90, died on Saturday in a car accident on their way to a nursing home in Ishikawa, central Japan. Police suspect one of the cars skidded on the icy road and caused the head-on clash.

Further snowfall is expected Saturday afternoon and early Sunday 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.

The agency also warned of strong winds and high waves in eastern Japan.

Japanese airline companies have cancelled at least 615 flights on Saturday due to heavy snow, NHK said.

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

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.

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

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

Some 3,400 households lost power in Tokyo and its vicinities "because of the heavy snow and other reasons," a Tokyo Electric Power spokesman said.

Some sections of expressways mainly in central Japan were also closed due to the snow.

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

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