At least 52 people are dead and nearly 600 injured after a massive snowstorm battered Japan, dumping some 10 feet of snow on its western coast. The storm, said to be the worst snowstorm in six years, caused at least one steel bridge to collapse and forced school closures in towns and cities across the region.
The snowstorm is also affecting the nation's infrastructure, as a major bridge in the Nagano Prefecture village of Sakae collapsed on Monday. Fortunately, no injuries were reported, as the bridge has been closed since last year's deadly earthquake.
An avalanche in the Akita Prefecture in northwest Japan on Wednesday, also buried buried three people for more than an hour. Rescuers who later arrived at the scene, began digging for the victims and found a woman unconscious, but alive.
Western Japan was struck by one snowstorm after another since the beginning of the New Year. Japan was also struck by a triple-disaster early last year, when an earthquake triggered a tsunami that claimed about 25,000 lives and destroyed a nuclear power plant. The country is still pumping money into cleanup efforts for the regions affected by last year's disasters.
ABC reported that officials have said that nearly half of the cities in the Niigata Prefecture have run out of funds that have been set aside for snow removal. Moreover, in the northern Aomoir Prefecture, the government has requested more funds from Tokyo after its snow budget has been depleted, that report added.
The 2005 and 2006 winter set the record for the worst snowfall in Japan when there were bout 152 deaths. Mountainous villages were cut off and unable to access emergency supplies from the government, Aljazeera reported.
The Japan Meteorological Agency has warned of continued snowfall along the Sea of Japan. Cleanup expense is expected to increase with the amount of snowfall.