Tokyo has heaviest snow in decades as voters choose governor

TOKYO – Tokyo residents dug themselves out from under a record snowfall that left at least seven dead nationwide, as the weather appeared to slow voter turnout in the election for the Japanese capital’s next governor.

Central Tokyo was left under 24 centimeters (9.4 inches) of snow this morning after Saturday’s storm, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. Public broadcaster NHK said the snowfall was the heaviest in 45 years. Other parts of greater Tokyo saw as much as 50 centimeters, a record for the region, the meteorological agency said.

The snow, which disrupted flights, train service and power lines, was blamed for seven deaths and at least 1,000 injuries across the country, NHK said. The fatalities included a 50-year-old man who was driving a car that slid into a pole in central Japan’s Aichi prefecture and a 69-year-old man who collapsed while shoveling snow outside his home in Chiba prefecture near Tokyo.

The accumulation appeared to affect turnout for Tokyo’s gubernatorial election, with 4.1 percent of eligible voters having cast ballots as of 11 a.m., down eight points from the same time during elections three years earlier, NHK reported.

Former Japanese health minister Yoichi Masuzoe was leading the race, according to a survey conducted by the Nikkei newspaper from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2. Masuzoe remained ahead of former prime minister Morihiro Hosokawa and Kenji Utsunomiya, the former head of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.

Japan Airlines halted 122 domestic flights due to the weather Sunday as of 12:30 p.m., affecting more than 20,000 passengers, according to a faxed statement. ANA Holdings said it had halted 101 flights, affecting about 15,000 passengers, as of 10:30 a.m.

Parts of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s service area saw sporadic power outages this morning due to the snow, the company said on its website. All service had been restored as of 9 a.m.

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