Cold paralyzes life in Korea

A woman wearing heavy clothes walks on a street in Seoul, capital of South Korea, as they counter the coldest winter. (Xinhua/Lui Siu Wai)

A woman wearing heavy clothes walks on a street in Seoul, capital of South Korea, as they counter the coldest winter. (Xinhua/Lui Siu Wai)

Extreme cold is gripping the whole nation. Heavy snowfall has blighted a number of provinces and on Jeju Island, all aircraft at the airport was grounded Sunday, while accidents have been reported in various regions.

According to the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA), the nation experienced record lows this winter with temperatures plummeting to minus 18 degrees Celsius in Seoul, the first time this has occurred since 2001 in the capital.

On Saturday, the KMA issued a winter weather advisory for Seoul and the surrounding capital region including Incheon, for the first time in six years. Ulleung Island off the east coast experienced a record one meter of snowfall which accumulated over the past six days.

The weather office issues winter weather advisories if the morning low drops by at least 15 degrees from the previous day, or is at least 3 degrees lower than the monthly average. It also issues a warning if the temperature remains at below minus 15 for more than two consecutive days.

Particularly hit hard was Jeju Island, where more than 60,000 travelers are stranded. They have been on the southern resort island since Saturday, due to flight cancelations following heavy snowfall and strong winds.

Some 12 centimeters of snow have fallen in Jeju City and more than one meter of snow in the island’s mountainous regions as of 3 p.m. Sunday.

More than 700 flights to and from the island were cancelled over the weekend.The Jeju branch of the Korea Airports Corp. (KAC) extended a runway closure at the island’s airport until 9 a.m., Monday, cancelling some 390 additional flights that were due to fly during the extended period.

The KAC is currently attempting to help the stranded travelers at the airport by making reservations for transportation and by providing temporary accommodation.

Some travelers expressed frustration, saying they were not properly informed of the flight cancellations in advance.

“I have to pay out of my own pocket for the extra, unexpected, cost of trip expenses caused by the situation,” said a Seoul-based office worker, who refused to be identified.

“I took a weekend trip here and I am getting worried about whether I can make it on time to work on Monday or Tuesday for that matter. I hope the airline sets up a special flight to swiftly take us back to our destinations, as soon as the ban is lifted.”

Residents nationwide were advised to stay home and refrain from any outdoor activities, with an official ban put in place on hiking at Mt. Jiri in South Gyeongsang Province and sailing from most port cities.

According to waterworks offices in Seoul, 40 cases involving frozen or burst water meters and pipes were reported from Saturday to Sunday alone, amid the highest warning level issued by the authorities.

(This article was originally published in The Korea Times)

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