At least 134 cars were involved in a series of crashes in Japan on Tuesday, when a snowstorm struck a stretch of highway.

One person was killed and at least a dozen more were hurt in the chaos.

The crashes occurred on the Tohoku Expressway in the northern prefecture of Miyagi at around noon local time, on a stretch of road about 1 kilometre long, the government said.

Authorities had imposed a speed limit of 50 kilometres per hour when heavy snow cut visibility, but that was not enough to prevent disaster.

Some 200 people were involved in the crashes and 12 of them were sent to hospital, the disaster management agency said.

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Rescue operations were underway, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters.

Parts of Japan have seen unusually heavy snow in recent weeks.

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