Tokyo digs out after snowstorm, but travel chaos remains, with thousands stuck at airport

More than 20cm of snow was dumped on Tokyo by the worst blizzard to hit the Japanese capital in four years

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 January, 2018, 7:47am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 January, 2018, 3:27pm

The Japanese capital of Tokyo on Tuesday dug out from more than 20cm of snow that had snarled traffic, trapping cars on bridges and in tunnels, and serious transport delays remained around the metropolis.

The snow that began on Monday morning tapered off early on Tuesday after dumping some 23cm on a city that rarely has snow accumulate, with freezing temperatures keeping snow-choked roads slick and pedestrians wary. It was the heaviest snow to hit Tokyo in four years.

Most commuter lines were operating normally, but a number of train services were cancelled and highways remained closed, while airports struggled to clear a backlog of flights.

Cancelled flights and a lack of transport left 6,000 people stuck at Narita airport overnight.

“I slept on the floor last night, but at least my flight to Hawaii will leave later today, so I’m looking forward to that,” one woman told national broadcaster NHK.

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Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways and other airlines cancelled more than 300 domestic and international flights, particularly those departing from and bound for Haneda airport, near downtown Tokyo.

According to JAL, one of its planes that landed at Narita airport, east of Tokyo, from Manila was stuck on a taxiway, as its front wheels could not move due to snow. The airport operator closed two runways to ensure safety and remove snow.

More than 740 traffic accidents due to the snow were reported, and 67 people were injured from falls as of last night, NHK added.

About 50 cars got stuck and unable to move on the “Rainbow Bridge” along Tokyo’s waterfront on Monday night, while traffic jams set off by heavy snow trapped a number of cars inside a tunnel for as much as 10 hours.

In pictures: Tokyo’s first November snowfall in 54 years in 2016

The Japanese capitaloften sees snow at least once a year, but it rarely accumulates. 

With many people rushing home, several train stations in Tokyo restricted admission on Monday evening. Delays and cancellations of train and bus services led to long lines for taxis.

Yuri Nakano, 28, waiting for a taxi at Shimbashi Station, appeared exhausted, saying, “I have to start work early tomorrow and want to get a taxi to go home with my co-worker but have already waited nearly one hour.”

According to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, a low atmospheric pressure system is moving over the sea south of the Japanese archipelago and will move northward from Tuesday.

With cold air expected to flow over Japan from Tuesday, a strong winter pressure pattern will continue until around Saturday, bringing heavy snow and strong winds to the Sea of Japan coast from Hokkaido to Hokuriku, it said.

Additional reporting by Kyodo