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Quake-hit Japanese region battles heaviest snow in two decades
TOKYO (AFP) Feb 02, 2005
Residents in Japan's central Niigata region, hit by a killer earthquake last year, on Wednesday battled the heaviest snowfall in almost two decades which has killed three people across the country, officials said.

"Heavy snow is very worrying since we just got over the big earthquake," a man in his early 70s told the public broadcaster NHK.

Several villages in Niigata, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Tokyo, were covered with nearly three meters (10 feet) of snow since early Tuesday, the most the region has seen in 19 years, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

A 77-year-old man and a 54-year-old man died on Tuesday and a 71-year-old man was in critical condition after falling off their roofs as they shovelled snow, police said.

In Yamagata, some 350 kilometers (220 miles) north of Tokyo, a 67-year-old man was killed when he slipped as he cleared snow off the top of his house, a police spokesman said.

The heavy snow also grounded 142 domestic flights, according to Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways.

Niigata was rocked on October 23 by a quake registering 6.8 on the Richter scale which killed 40 people and injured some 2,900 in Japan's deadliest tremor in a decade.

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