A reader named Mark Weitzman calls our attention to a Yomiuri Shimbun article with a provocative claim:
Quake efforts blamed for rise in snow mishaps
This winter’s heavier snowfall has seen more than 500 people across seven prefectures die or become injured in snow-related accidents, including cases in which they had been trying to remove snow, it has been learned.
People are trying to remove snow themselves using shovels and other tools because of delays in municipal-led snow removal. The delays have been caused by a shortage of dump trucks–many of which are being used in areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake for reconstruction work–to transport snow.
According to data compiled by the Akita, Aomori, Ishikawa, Nagano, Niigata, Toyama and Yamagata prefectural governments, the death toll from such snow-related accidents had reached 31 as of Wednesday, while 479 people had sustained injuries. In Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture, 10 workers fell at a construction site while clearing snow on Thursday, six of them sustaining injuries.
It’s hard to judge the validity of this claim without knowing the typical snow-related injury and death toll, especially in years with heavy snow. So while it may be true that the shortage of trucks has produced a tragic side-effect of the tsunami disaster, it may also be that this article represents the dissatisfaction of some municipal workers who are lobbying for more funds or trucks.