TOKYO – Japan was struck by a volcanic eruption and heavy snow on Tuesday, leading to at least two deaths and hundreds of people getting injured, as well as severe traffic disruptions.
The Japanese archipelago, especially Tokyo, has received its heaviest snowfall in four years since Monday, killing one person, injuring at least 720 and causing disruptions to air, rail and road transport.
In another incident at the Gunma ski resort north of Tokyo, a volcanic eruption and a near-simultaneous avalanche led to the death of a 49-year-old soldier and injured 11 others, Japanese authorities reported.
The avalanche could have been triggered by volcanic tremors related to the eruption and the rocks and other residues spouted by the volcano took the skiers by surprise, although most of them were safely evacuated.
The injured include six Japan Self-Defense Forces (military) members who had been conducting a drill and five skiers whose ski lift was hit by debris from the eruption.
Most of the injured have suffered fractures or cuts caused by the rocks spewed by the volcano that flew more than 1 kilometer (0.6 miles), although three people were seriously injured, according to the Ministry of Defense.
The eruption of Mount Kusatsu Shirane, a first in 3,000 years according to local authorities, took place while a big part of the archipelago was under the highest weather alert for snowfall.
In Tokyo, the snow was more than 20 centimeters (8 inches) deep and 229 people were injured in the city and nearby areas mainly as a result of slips and falls, public broadcaster NHK reported.
Most of the highways connecting Tokyo with other regions of the country have been blocked or affected by accidents while metro, suburban and high-speed train lines were interrupted.
Over 100 flights were canceled on Tuesday throughout the country, most of them operating from the capital’s Haneda and Narita airports, after more than 200 flights had been canceled a day earlier.
This, along with disruptions in public transport from the two airports in the capital, forced around 12,000 people to spend the night at the airports.
According to reports, 340 people were injured in other areas of central Japan and a 52-year-old woman died in the Ibaraki prefecture, north of Tokyo, after her vehicle collided with a truck due to the treacherous road conditions.
Many workers remained at home due to the weather on Tuesday after a large crowd gathered in Tokyo’s main stations on Monday and delays of up to two hours were reported in local and middle-distance trains.
Many citizens took to social media to criticize the country’s alleged lack of preparedness for the snowstorm, a normal occurrence in the central and northern parts at this time of the year.
The bad weather also affected industry in Japan, forcing automobile companies such as Nissan Motor, Subaru Corporation and Honda Motor to temporarily stop production in various plants.