Cold weather forces East Asia to blame for several deaths

Cold weather forces East Asia to blame for several deaths

The shivering weather in East Asia gripped East Asia for the second day in a row on Wednesday, leading to several deaths and multiple injuries in Japan and a scramble for flights from South Korea's resort island of Jeju, due to delays by snowstorms.

South Korea's Ministry of the Interior and Safety did not immediately report any major damage or injuries from subzero temperatures and icy conditions that have affected most of the country since Tuesday.

At least eight roads and 10 sea routes were closed on Wednesday afternoon. About 140 homes in the capital Seoul and nearby regions reported busted water pressure pumps or pipes as temperatures dipped to around minus 5 degrees to minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit across the mainland.

A man died in Oita, southern Japan after being hit by a fallen tree, and two more deaths in the northern prefecture of Niigata were being investigated in connection with the cold weather, officials said.

In Okayama, western Japan, two other people were found without vital signs. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki told reporters that the deaths could be linked to accidents while removing snow, and urged residents not to participate in such activities when nobody else is around to help in case of an emergency.

The Economy and Industry Ministry said that about 400 homes around the country were without electricity due to power line damage caused by fallen trees. It said traffic disruptions caused by snow also caused delivery delays at convenience stores in western Japan.

Thousands of people using train services in Kyoto and Shiga prefectures in western Japan were forced to stay overnight in carriages or stations, and 13 were taken to hospitals, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said. Hundreds of flights were canceled and vehicles on major roads across the country were left stranded. More than 30 injuries were reported in the Kyoto prefecture, mostly by falling.

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

Around 540 flights, including almost 70 that were temporarily added by the transportation authorities in an emergency response, were scheduled to arrive in Jeju on Wednesday, mostly to take passengers back to mainland cities.

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

Since Tuesday morning, the island has seen more than 7.5 inches of snow, while southern mainland cities and towns such as Gwangju and Gangjin reported around 3.9 to 4.7 inches of snow. More than 27.5 inches 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 from late Wednesday to Thursday afternoon, according to the Safety Ministry, which warned about dangerous road conditions.

In Gyeonggi province, officials said nearly 7,000 cold-weather shelters will be open and that several thousand tons of snow-clearing chemicals will be used to improve the safety of roads that may turn icy.

There were also cold weather warnings in North Korea, where authorities called for comprehensive measures to prevent freezing temperatures from causing economic damage. The weather forecast in Pyongyang was to dip to minus 2.2 degrees on Wednesday morning, South Korea s Yonhap news agency said, citing a North Korean state-run radio broadcast.

North Korean state media didn't immediately report any major damage or injuries caused by the weather.