Snowstorm strands Thais in Japan

The Thai embassy in Tokyo has opened a hotline for Thai travellers needing assistance while they are stranded in Japan by the heavy snowstorm.

According to Thai media, more than 100 Thai tourists were left stranded in Tokyo by the blizzard over the weekend that grounded commercial flights and brought parts of Japan to a virtual standstill early Monday, causing up to 16 deaths and leaving more than 1,000 injured.

The embassy issued an announcement on Sunday that Thais in Japan could phone 090-4435-7812 around the clock if they need assistance.

Thai tourists who entered Japan under the visa exemption agreement, with a 15-day valid stay, and now found their visa waiver period was expiring should contact the embassy and provide personal details for further assistance.

The  embassy said it would try to ensure that Thai people affected by the storm were safe and warm. They should store food and water sufficient for three days and they should not take road trips during this week.

The Japan Meteorological Agency warned of further heavy snow and strong winds in the eastern part of the northern island of Hokkaido later Monday.

The low-pressure system dumped record snowfalls in Tokyo and many other cities in eastern and central Japan over the weekend and disrupted air travel, rail services and major highways.

Some towns in the Tokyo, Miyagi, Shizuoka and Nagano prefectures were cut off by snow and local officials asked the military for help late Sunday,  Asahi News reported.

Early Monday, stretches of several major highways in central, eastern and north-eastern Japan were closed off, and some train services were suspended.

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