TOKYO – Heavy snowfall in Tokyo triggered on Monday the highest alert in four years, leading to major disruptions to transport networks in central and northern Japan.
Major airlines have canceled 278 flights, operating mostly from Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita airports, until 8:00 pm local time, after the Japan Meteorological Agency predicted heavy snowfall through Tuesday morning.
Up to 50 centimeters of snow could fall in the northeastern Tohoku region and the central areas of Honshu island – where Tokyo is located – while up to 20 cm was expected in the western and southern regions of the country, according to the JMA.
The agency issued a high alert for snowfall in most parts of the capital for the first time since Feb. 14, 2014, when heavy snowfall killed 6 people and injured more than 1,000.
More than a hundred high-speed trains connecting Tokyo and the prefectures of Yamanashi, Chiba, Tochigi, Nagano or Shizuoka were canceled on Monday, while more cancellations were expected, public broadcaster NHK reported.
The JMA has recommended people return home before the snow storm intensifies, while the transport ministry urged people to avoid all non-essential travel, asking motorists to immediately prepare snow chains for their vehicle’s tires.
Some main metro and train stations in Tokyo such as Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro, were heavily congested with crowds of passengers trying to get home before nightfall and the conditions worsened.
All highways to Tokyo will be closed on Tuesday, in addition to other roads in Kyoto, southeast of the Japanese capital, according to NHK.