Snow storm pummels Japan, disrupts travel

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A strong winter storm has lashed northern Japan and coastal regions, whipping off roofs, flooding homes and disrupting transport.

A severe blizzard battered the northern island of Hokkaido on Tuesday and a storm surge inundated homes in part of the island, according to the Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper.

A gust of 162km/h was recorded at Cape Erimo on Hokkaido and 135 km/h in the city of Sakata, Yamagata prefecture.

The Japan Meteorological Agency warned of "the most powerful blizzard in years," which could produce white-out conditions, for part of the island through Wednesday.

"Please refrain from outings," the agency told residents in the region.

The agency also warned of heavy snow, high waves, strong winds and traffic disruptions in the north-east and areas on the Sea of Japan side of the country.

Up to 60 centimetres of snow is forecast for the Hokuriku region and the north-east and up to 50 centimetres for Hokkaido in the 24 hours until Wednesday morning.

Nearly 600 schools were closed on Hokkaido and about 70 flights and more than 200 train services were cancelled on the island and in north-eastern Japan, according to the Hokkaido newspaper and Kyodo News.