A heavy snow storm swept through northern Japan this weekend, claiming the lives of at least nine people. However, one young girl was saved after her 53-year-old father sacrificed himself to protect her.
The Agence France-Presse reports that Mikio Okada froze to death while shielding his 9-year-old daughter Natsune from the brutal conditions in Yubetsu, a rural town on the eastern coast of the Hokkaido prefecture. A rescue team discovered the child in her father's arms in a field about 300 meters (roughly 980 feet) from their abandoned truck early Sunday morning.
Police said both were taken to a local hospital, where Okada was pronounced dead, The Japan Times reports. His daughter suffered no serious injuries.
According to local newspaper The Asahi Shimbun, the pair were driving Saturday afternoon when Okada's truck became stuck in the snow. Although Okada was able to make a call, informing a relative that the vehicle was stranded, rescuers did not find the pair until 7 a.m. the next morning.
The father and daughter reportedly attempted to walk the remaining distance, but the heavy winds and below-freezing temperatures likely inhibited their progress, forcing them to take cover. Rescuers found Okada crouched against the outer wall of a warehouse (pictured above) and using his body to shield his daughter, who was wrapped in her father's jacket.
Among the other fatalities from the storm, a mother and her three adolescent children, who were trapped in a vehicle during the storm, died Saturday from carbon monoxide poisoning. Four others also fell victim to the harsh conditions and perished in the snow.
Last winter, heavy snow storms battered coastal cities and towns in northern Japan for months. According to the AP, the intense weather played a role in at least 56 deaths.