TOKYO, Feb 10, 2012 (AFP) - Northern Japan was bracing for more heavy snow Friday as severe winter weather continues to cause misery across a large part of the country, claiming at least 83 lives so far. Forecasters were predicting up to 60 centimetres (24 inches) of snow would fall in parts of the northernmost island of Hokkaido and in the north of Japan's main island of Honshu over 24 hours.
In Sukayu, in Aomori prefecture, where the temperature dropped to minus 12.8 degrees Celsius (10 degrees Fahrenheit) on Friday, more than four metres of snow is already lying on the ground, with more forecast. In Hijiori in northwestern Yamagata prefecture, where the average annual snowfall is 2.6 metres, there is already four metres of snow. The snow has extended over a wide area of the country with Kasumi in Hyogo prefecture north of Kyoto getting 82 centimetres. nearly seven times its annual average of 12 centimetres. Since November when snow started to fall, 60 people have died as they were removing snow from roofs or roads.
Heavy loads of snow falling from buildings or other structures have killed 15 people and four more have died in avalanches, including at a popular hot springs resort, the disaster management agency said. The extreme weather, which has filled evening news reports for weeks, has also claimed four other lives, the government agency said.