Heavy snowfall in Japan has left at least eight people dead, national broadcaster NHK reported on Friday (Dec 23), citing Japan's Fire and Disaster Management Agency.
The heavy snow across northern and western Japan has prompted weather officials to call on residents to stay alert for winter blizzards.
Japan is currently being subjected to winter pressure patterns, with the weather agency warning of traffic disruptions, snowstorms and high waves, reported Kyodo news.
DEATHS DUE TO HEAVY SNOW
Officials said the eight deaths occurred in five prefectures - Hokkaido, Akita, Yamagata, Niigata and Ishikawa, according to NHK.
A woman in her 20s was found dead in a car buried in snow in Niigata Prefecture on Tuesday. Officials suspected that she died of carbon monoxide poisoning after the car's exhaust pipe was blocked by snow.
Three people over 80 died in accidents in Niigata Prefecture while trying to clear the snow from around their houses.
In Akita Prefecture, northern Japan, a man in his 80s was found dead on Wednesday, buried under snow. Another man in his 70s in the prefecture died while trying to clear snow off the roof of his house on Monday.
Officials added that 19 people were seriously injured and 26 others suffered minor injuries in snow-related accidents in six prefectures.
RENEWED SNOWFALL RECORDS
Some western cities observed record snowfall, reported Kyodo news. These include the western main island of Shikoku, Okuizumo in Shimane Prefecture, as well as Kitahiroshima and Shobara in Hiroshima Prefecture.
Engaru in Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost main island, renewed its record snowfall in December by registering more than 80cm in a 24-hour period through on Friday morning.
The weather agency warned people in Ishikawa Prefecture that they may be affected by traffic disruption.
Some bullet train services at the prefectural capital Kanazawa were briefly disrupted when snow blew against the platform doors.
Japan Airlines cancelled 59 flights and All Nippon Airways cancelled 41, affecting about 3,750 and 1,470 passengers, respectively, reported Japantimes.
According to Kyodo news, the Japan Meteorological Agency said it expects the rough weather to continue through to Monday, moving from the country's north and east to the west.