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Japanese expressway littered with vehicles after 134-car pileup amid blizzard

Blinding, wind-driven snow is the suspected cause of a deadly accident on an expressway in northern Japan that involved at least 134 vehicles.
Credit: Yuta Omori/Kyodo News via AP
Cars are stuck on the snowy Tohoku Expressway in Osaki city, Miyagi prefecture, northern Japan, after a multiple car accident, Tuesday, Jan. 19. 2021.

Blinding, wind-driven snow is the suspected cause of a deadly accident on an expressway in northern Japan that involved at least 134 vehicles.

The accident occurred around midday on Tuesday on the Tohoku Expressway in Miyagi prefecture, which is located about 20 miles (32 km) to the north of the city of Sendai. Initial reports from local media indicated that the accident involved more than 134 vehicles carrying about 200 people.

The accident has claimed the life of one person and an additional 12 were injured, according to Reuters.

Aerial video from the scene showed a snow-covered road and blowing snow with smashed-up cars and jack-knifed tractor trailers lining the roadway as emergency responders provided assistance to motorists.

Authorities had reduced the speed limit on the highway to 31 mph (50 km/h) when heavy snow reduced visibility.

Around the time of the accident, an expressway operator said the area was in a state of whiteout due to the wind and snow, with visibility reduced to near zero, according to the Japanese broadcast service NHK.

This accident comes after heavy snow across western Japan left 1,000 vehicles stranded on a highway in Niigata in December. A separate snowstorm left 1,500 vehicles stranded amid heavy snow on the Hokuriku Expressway earlier in January.

Weather conditions at the location of the accident are expected to turn more tranquil on Wednesday and Thursday with lighter winds and dry conditions. Temperatures above freezing during the days will allow snow to melt of roadways and aid in cleanup.

However, as temperatures fall near or below freezing at night, any areas of standing water or wet roads could once again turn icy.