Snowfall in Japan: thousands of homes without power

Hundreds of thousands of homes were without power in central and western Japan Thursday after a record snowfall that also forced the suspension of train services and closed an international airport, officials said. Some 470,000 households in Niigata prefecture have no electricity, probably because the snow and strong winds caused the power lines to short-circuit, said Atsushi Ishii, a spokesman for Tohoku Electric Power Co. He said the company was investigating. So far, 231 centimeters (92 inches) of snow has fallen in the town of Tsunan in Niigata and 216 centimeters (86) inches has fallen on Shirakawa Town in central Gifu prefecture, said Kenji Kobayashi, a researcher for the Meteorological Agency. The falls had surpassed records in those regions.

Train services in Niigata, about 250 kilometers (160 miles) northwest of Tokyo, were suspended due to power outages, according to Junpei Yamauchi, a JR East Japan spokesman. All local and express services as well as some bullet train services in the area were halted, while some night trains linking cities on the west coast will be canceled, Yamauchi said.

Central Japan International Airport in Aichi prefecture said it would keep its only runway closed until Thursday afternoon because of the snow, said airport spokesman Mitsuoki Hikota.

Fourteen international and 104 domestic flights have been canceled and eight international flights have been diverted to other airports, Hikota said.

Kansai Electric Power Co. said that about 700,000 households in western Japan were without power for about 40 minutes Thursday morning after two power generators at its nuclear power station in Fukui prefecture shut down, reports the AP. I.L.

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