Heavy snow in Hokkaido strands 6,000 people at airport, causes massive queues at stations

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 December, 2016, 6:00pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 December, 2016, 6:00pm

Around 6,000 people were forced to spend Friday night at New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido after about 280 flights were cancelled as the northern Japanese prefecture was hit by its heaviest December snowfall in 50 years, the airport operator said Saturday.

The number of people stranded overnight at the airport’s passenger terminal building was the most since its opening in 1992, the operator Hokkaido Airport Terminal said.

With the airport only having 4,000 blankets, the authorities had to borrow some from nearby Self-Defence Force bases, it added.

Suspension of some flight services on Saturday continued to cause congestion at the airport, which serves the prefectural capital Sapporo.

“I want to go home today, somehow. I am just praying that I won’t receive an email from the airline company notifying me of cancellation of the flights,” said Yu Iwabuchi, a 20-year-old vocational school student who was hoping to travel to her home in Nagano Prefecture.

Hokkaido Railway Co., meanwhile, said they have stopped the operation of more than 330 trains, including all morning services to and from Sapporo Station, on Saturday as the task of clearing snow took longer than predicted.