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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 January 2006, 07:46 GMT
Japan struck by deadly snowdrifts
Japanese woman clears snow off her car in Tsunan, northern Japan
Dozens of people have died as a result of the snowfall
Disaster relief teams have been dispatched across Japan after the heaviest snowfall on record, Japanese media is reporting.

At least 61 people have died and more than 1,000 have been injured as a result of the snowfall, which began last month.

In some of the worst-hit areas the snow is more than three metres (10ft) deep.

Some of the victims lost their lives when their homes collapsed under the pressure of the snow.

"It's frightening," an unnamed elderly women in Akita City on the island of Honshu told Japan's TV Asahi. "There were creaking sounds and I couldn't open the doors because of the weight of the snow."

Others died in falls while trying to clear the snow from their roofs.

Kyodo news agency says 14 areas have been affected across Japan.

Niigata and Nagano prefectures, north-west of Tokyo, are among the hardest-hit.

Local authorities and volunteer groups have appealed for members of the public to help elderly people stricken by the snow.

The Japanese meteorological agency said the snow will continue to blanket northern and western Japan and has warned of possible avalanches.

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