HONG KONG – Snow, sleet and icy winds across Asia caused deaths, flight cancellations and chaos over the weekend as areas used to basking in balmier climates struggled with record-low temperatures.
Weather-related deaths were reported in Japan and Taiwan, with hundreds of flights cancelled across the region, tens of thousands of vacationers stranded in South Korea, and freezing conditions in sub-tropical Hong Kong causing mayhem on its tallest peak.
While the cold snap is by no means on the scale of the weather now affecting the snow-bound eastern United States, such temperatures are a novelty for many residents of the region.
In Bangkok, a city that rarely sees the thermometer dip below 20-25 degrees Celsius, temperatures dropped to around 16 degrees late Sunday.
It left Bangkokians, whose normal attire generally includes flip-flops and shorts, digging through their closets for jackets and jumpers.
In Japan five people died and more than 100 were injured Sunday, with record-breaking heavy snowfall and low temperatures in the country’s western and central regions and rare snow in subtropical areas, officials and local media said.
The small subtropical island of Amami observed snow for the first time since 1901, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
In China, 24 weather stations around the country recorded alltime low temperatures between Friday and Sunday.
At Eergu’Na in Inner Mongolia, the temperature on Saturday hit a record low of minus 46.8 degrees C.
The southern city of Guangzhou saw rare sleet, the first in 60 years, in its downtown area, the provincial meteorological station announced on Sunday.
In Hong Kong, primary schools and kindergartens were closed Monday after temperatures plunged to a 60-year low.
A 100-km ultramarathon race was abandoned as competitors crossing the city’s tallest peak, Tai Mo Shan, slipped on icy slopes buffeted by freezing winds.
The peak became the scene of “carnage,” as one race official described it, as hundreds of curious “frost-chasing” citizens became stranded, with dozens stricken with hypothermia and hapless firemen called in to rescue them filmed slipping and sliding on the icy roads.
Close to 90,000 people were stranded on the South Korean resort island of Jeju on Monday after the biggest snowfall in three decades shut the airport for the third straight day.
Taipei registered a low of 4 degrees C over the weekend, the coldest in 44 years, with the Taiwan media reporting 90 deaths due to the cold weather, and rare snowfall drawing enthusiastic crowds to Yangmingshan National Park.
In Vietnam, temperatures in Hanoi dropped to six degrees C at night over the weekend, which state-run media said was the coldest weather the country has experienced for some two decades.