Weather officials in Japan and the Korean peninsula have issued warnings against freezing temperatures and storms that have killed at least one person and left thousands stranded.
Severe cold weather has already caused deaths, devastation and record low temperatures in the region over the past two weeks, with at least 124 deaths in Afghanistan and record lows of -53C in northeastern China.
Much of Japan is currently in the grip of severe cold spells, with some areas expected to experience the lowest temperatures in a decade. Hirokazu Matsuno, chief cabinet secretary on Wednesday, said one person had died as a result of the storm and two other deaths were under investigation. Temperatures of -25C were recorded on the Korean peninsula on Tuesday near the border of North and South Korea.
The country’s meteorological agency said heavy snowfall was forecast for much of Wednesday in central Japan and the country’s north-east, while winds could reach up to 126 km/h across the country. A record 93cm of snow was recorded in the city of Maniwa, 24 hours before Wednesday morning.
Some rail passengers were stranded in western Japan for several hours on Tuesday, while local airlines said they would cancel more than 200 flights on Wednesday, according to West Japan Railways. The Kyodo news agency said that high-speed train services in the northeast of the country would also be suspended.
Japan’s meteorological agency said parts of the country could see 10-year lowest temperatures and warned that cold weather will continue through Thursday, with blizzards and strong winds expected along the Sea of Japan coast.
Strong winds may also be behind the sinking of a Hong Kong-registered cargo ship Wednesday morning in the seas between western Japan and the South Korean island of Jeju, Reuters reported. Of the 22 crew on board, 13 were rescued, but the search continues.
Public broadcaster NHK urged authorities to urge people to avoid non-essential travel and be mindful of icy road conditions. They also warned that water pipes could freeze.
Sub-zero temperatures are expected Wednesday morning on Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido and as far south as Kyushu. Mercury can drop to -3C in Tokyo and -2C in the western city of Osaka.
Cold weather conditions are also experienced on the Korean peninsula. South Korea’s meteorological agency issued a special “cold wave” warning on Tuesday, as temperatures dropped to -16C in Seoul and as low as -25C near the North Korean border on the coldest day of the season so far.
North Korean officials have issued extreme cold weather warnings for the entire country and temperatures are predicted to drop to “dangerously low levels” in the poorest parts of the country, NK News reported.
It was quoted on its website that North Korea’s central radio broadcaster said temperatures in the north of the country could drop below -30C. Temperatures in the capital, Pyongyang, were -19C early Wednesday and well below average for this time of year, NK News added.
The weather system has seen temperatures drop below average across the region. At least 124 people have died in the freezing cold in Afghanistan in the past two weeks. State officials told the BBC the weather was the coldest on record in decades and parts of the country were completely covered in snow. It also killed about 7,000 cattle.
Some areas also recorded their coldest days, including the town of Mohe in China’s northern Heilongjiang province, which dropped to -53C. On Tuesday, authorities issued a “blue” warning for severe weather, the lowest of four levels.
The cold front has seen temperatures in China drop as much as 16C below average. The weather agency on Tuesday warned that even if the cold wave dissipates, temperatures in the central and eastern regions will remain below average for the next ten days or so.
In northern and central Taiwan, temperatures have also dropped with snowfall in some areas.
Additional research by Chi Hui Lin