South Korea, Japan face deaths, travel disruptions amid heavy snow storm

Streaming HUBJanuary 25, 2023

Bitter cold weather lashed East Asia for the second day in a row on Wednesday, killing and injuring several people in Japan and delaying flights from South Korea’s resort island of Jeju due to a blizzard.

Heavy snow and record cold temperatures caused widespread disruption in Japan.

South Korea’s Ministry of the Interior and Security did not immediately report any major damage or injuries from the sub-zero temperatures and icy conditions that have affected much of the country since Tuesday.

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But at least eight roads and 10 sea lanes remained closed as of Wednesday afternoon. About 140 homes in the capital Seoul and surrounding areas reported water pressure pumps or pipes shut off as temperatures across the mainland dropped by about 5 degrees to 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Authorities said one person was killed in a falling tree in Oita in southern Japan and two more deaths in the northern prefecture of Niigata were under investigation.

Two other people were found without significant symptoms in Okayama, western Japan. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki told reporters that the deaths could be linked to accidents while clearing snow and urged residents to avoid such activities when there is no one else to help in an emergency.

The Ministry of Economy and Industry said about 400 homes across the country were without power because power lines were damaged by fallen trees. It said deliveries at convenience stores in western Japan were delayed due to traffic disruptions caused by snow.

A police officer controls vehicle traffic amid heavy snowfall on Jeju Island, South Korea, January 24, 2023.

A police officer controls vehicle traffic amid heavy snowfall on Jeju Island, South Korea, January 24, 2023.
(Park Ji-ho/Yonhap via AP)

Thousands of people using train services in Kyoto and Shiga prefectures in western Japan were forced to stay on trains or stations overnight and 13 were taken to hospitals, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said. Vehicles were stranded on major roads across the country and hundreds of flights were cancelled. Kyoto Prefecture reported over 30 injuries, mostly from falls.

Air traffic returned to normal on Tuesday after hundreds of flights to and from Jeju were canceled due to strong winds and snow, stranding an estimated 40,000 passengers who had come to the resort island for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Some 540 flights, including about 70 that were temporarily added by transport authorities in emergency response, were scheduled in and out of Jeju on Wednesday alone, mostly to take passengers back to mainland cities.

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

The island has seen more than 7.5 inches of snow since Tuesday morning, while southern mainland cities and towns such as Gwangju and Gangjin reported about 3.9 to 4.7 inches of snow. More than 27.5 inches of snow fell on the tiny eastern island of Ulluang.

The winter storm is headed toward the Seoul area and surrounding areas, where heavy snowfall was expected from late Wednesday into Thursday afternoon, according to the Ministry of Security, which is warning of dangerous road conditions.

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Authorities in Gyeonggi province, which surrounds Seoul, said some 7,000 cold-weather shelters would remain open across the region and several thousand tons of snow-clearing chemicals would be used to improve the safety of roads that can be icy.

Cold weather warnings were also issued in North Korea, where officials reportedly called for “severe measures” to prevent freezing temperatures from causing economic damage. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency cited North Korea’s state-run radio broadcast as saying the temperature in the capital, Pyongyang, was forecast to drop to minus 2.2 F on Wednesday morning.

North Korean state media did not immediately report any major damage or injuries caused by the weather.

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