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Snow-hit Japan warns of avalanches, landslides
Updated: 2006-01-14 15:28

Japan issued warnings for avalanches, flooding and landslides on Saturday as weathermen forecast warmer temperatures and rains in mountainous areas hit by recent record snowfalls that have caused more than 80 deaths.

Eighty-eight people have died in snow-related incidents over the past few weeks, Kyodo news agency reported.

Up to 8 cm (3.1 inches) of rain was forecast for northeastern Japan, the area worst-hit by the snow, in the 24 hours up to early Sunday.

"We are worried that rains, coupled with water from melting snow, could trigger landslides," said an official at the Meteorological Agency.

The agency said temperatures would rise this weekend to well above freezing in affected areas, some of which had nearly four metres (13 feet) of snow piled up.

About 80 percent of those who have died were over the age of 60, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said, many of them after falling from their roofs while clearing snow.

In Niigata prefecture northwest of Tokyo on Saturday, a 72-year-old man died after his two-storey house collapsed under the weight of snow, a police spokesman said.

A 64-year-old man died in Nagano prefecture, northwest of Tokyo, later on Saturday after falling off from the snow-covered roof of his storehouse, police said.

Shortly after returning from a trip to Turkey on Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi instructed his government to work out measures to deal with snow damage.

The government says it will disburse 11.3 billion yen ($99 million) to local governments in affected areas to help them clear snow from roads.

Government officials fear that prices of products such as kerosene and vegetables could shoot up due to the bitter cold.

A farm ministry survey carried out between January 4 and January 6 showed cabbage was 50 percent more expensive than usual and leek prices were up on average 40 percent.
Much of Japan has had record snowfall in the last month, but Tokyo has had virtually none this winter.

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