Weather authorities in Japan and the Korean Peninsula have issued warnings for freezing temperatures and gales that have killed at least one person and left thousands behind.
The severe cold has already caused deaths, havoc and record low temperatures across the region over the past two weeks, with at least 124 people killed in Afghanistan and record low temperatures of -53C in northeast China.
Large parts of Japan are now in the grip of a severe frost and some areas may experience their lowest temperatures in a decade. On Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said one person was killed in the storm and two others were under investigation. Temperatures of -25°C were recorded on the Korean Peninsula near the border between North and South Korea on Tuesday.
Heavy snowfall was predicted for most of Wednesday in central Japan and the country’s northeast, while winds could reach 126 km/h across the country, the national meteorological agency said. In the 24 hours to Wednesday morning, the city of Maniwa recorded a record 93 cm of snow.
In western Japan, some rail passengers were stranded for several hours on Tuesday, according to West Japan Railway, while the domestic airline said it would cancel more than 200 flights on Wednesday. Bullet train services in the north-east of the country will also be suspended, Kyodo news agency reported.
Japan’s meteorological agency said parts of the country could see their lowest temperatures in 10 years and warned that the cooling would continue until Thursday, with blizzards and violent winds expected along the Sea of Japan coast.
Strong winds may also be behind the sinking of a Hong Kong-registered cargo ship in the seas between western Japan and South Korea’s Jeju island on Wednesday morning, Reuters reported. Thirteen of the 22 crew on board were rescued, but the search is still ongoing.
Officials urged people to avoid unnecessary travel and beware of icy roads, public broadcaster NHK said. They also warn that water pipes may freeze.
Sub-zero temperatures are expected Wednesday morning over Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost main island, and as far south as Kyushu. In Tokyo, the mercury can drop to -3°C, and in Osaka in the west -2°C.
Cold conditions also prevail on the Korean Peninsula. South Korea’s meteorological administration issued a special “cold wave” warning on Tuesday as temperatures plunged to -16C in Seoul and -25C near the North Korean border on the coldest day of the season so far.
North Korean authorities have issued extreme low temperature warnings for the entire country, with forecasts predicting temperatures to drop to “dangerously low” in some of the poorest regions, NK News reported.
The website quoted a North Korean radio broadcaster as saying that temperatures in the north of the country could drop below -30°C. Messages added.
The weather system saw temperatures drop below average across the region. At least 124 people have died in Afghanistan in the last two weeks due to the cold weather. Government officials told the BBC the weather was the coldest in decades, with parts of the country completely cut off by snow. He also killed around 7,000 cattle.
Parts of China also experienced the coldest days on record, including the city of Mohe in northern Heilongjiang Province, where temperatures dropped to -53°C. On Tuesday, authorities issued a “blue” warning – the lowest of four levels for severe weather.
A cold front has pushed temperatures in China as much as 16 degrees below average. On Tuesday, the weather agency warned that even after the cold spell subsides, temperatures in central and eastern areas will remain below average for about ten days.
In northern and central Taiwan, temperatures also dropped sharply with snowfall in some areas.
Additional research by Chi Hui Lin