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More than 50,000 lose power as northern Japan hit with heavy snowfall

Workers from the Hokkaido Development Agency's Kushiro Development and Construction Department, are deployed to Nemuro, Hokkaido, to help set up defenses against storm surges on the morning of Jan. 19, 2016. (Mainichi)

A rapidly developing low pressure system dumped vast quantities of snow onto northern Japan from the night of Jan. 18 to early Jan. 19, cutting power to more than 50,000 households across the region and prompting an evacuation advisory for part of Hokkaido.

    According to Tohoku Electric Power Co., the electricity distribution network was beset with multiple problems, including power lines snapped by falling trees and short-outs on high-voltage lines. The utility said that, as of 10 a.m. on Jan. 19, some 52,441 households in Niigata Prefecture plus the six prefectures making up Tohoku had lost power since the night before. Those included 27,232 households in Iwate Prefecture, 13,291 in Aomori Prefecture, 4,306 in Fukushima Prefecture, 4,045 in Miyagi Prefecture, 2,425 in Niigata Prefecture, 901 in Yamagata Prefecture, and 241 in Akita Prefecture. Hokkaido Electric Power Co. stated that 5,756 households in its service area had lost power as of 9 a.m. on Jan. 19.

    Nemuro, Hokkaido, meanwhile, issued an evacuation warning to 4,069 households comprising some 9,700 people living in 37 coastal districts at about 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 19 after storm surges prompted fears of flooding. The city opened four evacuation shelters to accommodate those who left their homes.

    Nemuro has been hit by flooding from storm surges a number of times in the past, and city officials took countermeasures such as setting up sandbags when they heard that the low pressure system would pass close by at the same time as high tide.

    According to the Iwate Prefecture Government's disaster prevention department, a man in his 40s tying up a boat in the village of Tanohata lost his little finger after it was caught in a rope. Another man in his 60s was injured when a boat trailer hit his foot as he was preparing to get a boat out of the water.

    Some 232 centimeters of snowfall were recorded in the Sukayu hot spring resort in Aomori as of 9 a.m. on Jan. 19, while people could be seen in the center of the Aomori prefectural capital clearing snow starting very early in the morning.

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