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South Korea, Japan grapple with heavy snow chaos, delays


SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Thousands of travelers flooded a small airport in Jeju Island, South Korea, Wednesday in a race to get on flights following delays caused by snowstorms as freezing winter weather it gripped East Asia for the second day in a row.

Officials at South Korea’s Ministry of Interior and Security did not immediately report damage or serious injuries as sub-zero temperatures and freezing conditions have gripped most of the country since Tuesday.

But at least eight roads and 10 sea routes have remained closed since Wednesday afternoon. About 140 homes in the capital Seoul and nearby regions reported ruptured water pressure pumps or pipes as temperatures dropped from minus 15 to minus 20 degrees Celsius (5 degrees to minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit) across the mainland.

In Japan, heavy snow and record-breaking cold temperatures also resulted in widespread disruptions.

At least one person has died and two other deaths have been investigated in connection with the cold, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.

Thousands of people using train services in western Japan’s Kyoto and Shiga prefectures have been forced to stay overnight in train cars or stations, while vehicles on the country’s main roads have been stranded and hundreds of flights have been cancelled, Kyodo said. News.

Air traffic has returned to normal after hundreds of flights into and out of Jeju were grounded on Tuesday due to high winds and snow, stranding some 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 in an emergency response, were scheduled in and out of Jeju on Wednesday alone, mainly to return passengers to mainland cities.

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

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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 10 to 12 cm (3.9 to 4.7 inches) of snow. More than 70 centimeters (27.5 inches) of snow fell on the small eastern island of Ulleung.

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

Officials in Gyeonggi province, which surrounds Seoul, said nearly 7,000 cold-weather shelters would be opened across the region and several thousand tons of snow-clearing chemicals would be used to improve road safety that could become frozen.

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

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

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