South Korea and Japan are grappling with severe snow chaos and delays


SEOUL, South Korea — Thousands of travelers flocked to a small airport on South Korea’s Jeju Island on Wednesday to board flights after snowstorms delayed them as east Asia was gripped by cold winter weather for the second straight day.

South Korean Interior and Security Ministry officials reported no major damage or injuries from sub-zero temperatures and frigid conditions that have ravaged most of the country since Tuesday.

However, at least eight roads and ten sea routes remained closed as of Wednesday afternoon. About 140 households in the capital Seoul and surrounding regions reported broken water pressure pumps or pipes as mainland temperatures dropped to about minus 15 to minus 20 degrees Celsius (5 degrees to minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit).

Heavy snowfall and record cold temperatures also caused widespread disruption in Japan.

At least one person has died and two other deaths are being investigated in relation to the cold weather, Chief Cabinet Officer Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.

Thousands of people using the train service in western Japan’s Kyoto and Shiga prefectures have had to sleep in train cars or stations, while vehicles are stranded on major roads across the country and hundreds of flights have been canceled, Kyodo News reported.

Air traffic returned to normal after hundreds of flights to and from Jeju were grounded Tuesday due to high winds and snow, stranding an estimated 40,000 travelers who had visited the resort island for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Some 540 flights, including nearly 70 temporarily added by transportation authorities as emergency measures, were scheduled to and from Jeju on Wednesday alone, mostly to ferry passengers back to mainland cities.

Korea Airports Corporation said operating hours at Gimpo Airport near Seoul were extended to 1 a.m. to accommodate increased flights, which were expected to carry 70% to 80% of passengers stranded in Jeju return.

The island has seen more than 19 centimeters (7.5 inches) of snow since Tuesday morning, while southern mainland cities and towns such as Gwangju and Gangjin reported about 10 to 12 centimeters (3.9 to 4.7 inches) of snow. More than 70 centimeters of snow fell on the small eastern island of Ulleung.

The winter storms appeared to be moving toward the greater Seoul area and nearby regions, where heavy snow was expected late Wednesday through Thursday afternoon, according to the security ministry, which warned of dangerous road conditions.

Cold weather warnings have also been issued in North Korea, where authorities have reportedly called for “thorough action” to prevent freezing temperatures from causing economic damage. Temperatures in the capital Pyongyang are expected to drop to minus 19C (minus 2.2F) on Wednesday morning, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said, citing a North Korean state radio broadcast.

North Korean state media did not immediately report major damage or injuries from the weather.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *