Severe cold snap brings misery and travel chaos to Japan and Korea

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Heavy snow and record-low temperatures wreaked havoc across Japan and Korea on Wednesday bringing misery and travel chaos to millions. File photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 25 (UPI) — An arctic weather front continued to hold Japan and the Korean peninsula in its grip Wednesday with record-low temperatures and heavy snowfall causing widespread disruption.

Cars, trains and planes were stranded and at least one person is reported to have died in southwest Japan’s Oita Prefecture, the official Kyodo news service reported.

The death in Oita occurred during an operation to remove a fallen tree. A further two deaths in Okayama Prefecture are suspected to be related to the cold snap, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki told a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday.

The deaths of two people in Niigata Prefecture north of Tokyo were also being looked into in relation to the cold weather, he said.

Thousands of rail passengers in Kyoto and Shiga prefectures in western Japan were forced to spend Tuesday night in carriages or stations. Hundreds of flights were canceled and vehicles on major roads across the country were stranded.

Japan’s weather agency has urged people to be vigilant, warning of blizzards, stormy seas and icy roads amid concern further snowfall is on the way, including in low-lying areas on the Pacific coast.

Public broadcaster NHK said officials had urged people to avoid non-essential journeys. It also issued warnings of water pipes freezing.

Freezing temperatures were expected across the country from Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost main island, as far south as Kyushu. In Tokyo the temperature could drop to 26 degrees and 28 degrees in Osaka in the west of the country.

The weather is being blamed for the sinking of a cargo ship 90 miles off the South Korean coast on Wednesday. Two crew were confirmed dead and eight others were missing after their Hong Kong-registered vessel carrying 22 crew members sank off the southern island of Jeju, the official Yonhap news agency reported the Korean Coast Guard as saying.

Fourteen Chinese crew members and eight from Myanmar were aboard the Jin Tian, a 6,551-ton, wood-carrying ship, when it sent out a distress signal at 3:07 a.m. in international waters 92 miles southeast of the city of Seogwipo on Jeju, said the coast guard.

Meanwhile, across the Sea of Japan, Pyongyang issued a rare ”extreme weather warning” as temperatures in North Korea plummeted.

Temperatures in rural areas in the north of the country were forecast to fall to below -22 degrees in the northern regions, Seoul-based NK News reported.

North Korean weather officials reported the country was experiencing its coldest temperatures since 2001.

Much of South Korea is also enveloped in frigid weather, with temperatures dropping as low as 3 degrees in Seoul.

On Tuesday all flights on the southern island of Jeju Island were grounded by snow and strong winds.

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