TOKYO - A severe snowstorm sweeping across Japan has killed 19 people and left more than 1,600 injured, media and officials said Monday, as the extreme weather sparked widespread transport chaos.
At least 19 people have died in snow-related incidents after the record-breaking storm, the top-selling Yomiuri Shimbun reported, with the blast now battering the northern island of Hokkaido.
More than 6,900 people were trapped in small communities cut off by snow-blocked roads and railway lines, the Yomiuri said, while gasoline deliveries to some petrol stations were delayed due to impassible roads.
In Yamanashi prefecture west of Tokyo, stores were facing a serious fresh food shortage, the Yomiuri and public broadcaster NHK reported, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promising to send a government team to help the struggling area.
"We will do everything we can to protect the lives and possessions of people in cooperation with local governments and relevant ministries," he told parliament Monday.
The storm is now moving toward northernmost Hokkaido, Japan's meteorological agency said, warning of heavy snow, blizzards and avalanches as well as high waves along the northeastern coast, which was battered by a quake-sparked tsunami almost three years ago.
Despite around-the-clock clearing efforts, hundreds of cars on Monday remained stuck on some mountain roads, leaving drivers stranded, local officials told AFP.