A big chill is sweeping across North and South Asia and even parts of Southeast Asia. From India to Japan the mercury is plummeting. Snow, sleet and icy winds across the region has caused deaths, flight cancellations and chaos over the weekend as areas used to basking in balmier climates struggled with record-low temperatures.
CHINA DROPS TO MINUS 41
Officials said they recorded the lowest temperature in Hong Kong in nearly six decades, 3.1 degrees Celsius in urban areas.
The deep chill prompted hundreds of firefighters to rescue stranded hikers, with more than 80 people injured and suffering from hypothermia.
A record-breaking cold snap has hit much of China as well and turned some of the country's scenic spots into a winter wonderland.
State broadcaster CCTV said temperatures hit minus 41 degrees Celsius in the north on Saturday, the coldest level recorded since 1961.
Throughout the country, crews worked to clear snow-covered roads with many homes left without power. In Chongqing, authorities worked to clear a backlog of 4,000 travelers stranded at the regional airport.
Twenty-four weather stations around the country recorded all-time low temperatures between Friday and Sunday.
At Eergu'Na in Inner Mongolia, the temperature on Saturday hit a record low of -46.8 degrees Celsius, while the southern city of Guangzhou saw rare sleet, the first in 60 years, in its downtown area, the provincial meteorological station announced on Sunday.
Meteorologists said temperatures were rising again in the north, but warned the south could still see bone-chilling cold conditions.
TAIWAN RECORDS DOZENS OF DEATHS
In Taiwan, 85 had died as of Sunday evening as a result of the freezing conditions, including 35 deaths in Taoyuan in the island’s north, local media reported.
Most of the casualties were the result of hypothermia from the rapidly dropping temperatures, the Taoyuan City Fire Department said.
In Taipei, the temperature dropped to 4 degrees on Sunday, the lowest recorded temperature in the capital for 44 years.
Rare snowfall was also recorded in the high mountain areas of Yangming and Taiping. On Sunday, accumulated snow had reached 20cm in Taoyuan’s Lalashan Forest Recreation Area, CNA reported.
The Central Weather Bureau has issued a cold surge advisory across the entire island, in place until Tuesday morning.
Record-breaking heavy snowfall and low temperatures killed five people died and injured more than 100 on Sunday, officials and local media said.
Heavy snow blanketed the western and northern coasts of Japan over the weekend, lowering visibility and disrupting traffic.
Visibility was very poor in cities in coastal areas, and accumulating snow was narrowing the roads by the hour, causing accidents and stranding many cars.
Local governments dispatched snow plows to clear roads, but they made little progress as the snow accumulated faster and over a wide area.
In central parts of Tokyo, snow accumulated so quickly that people could barely manage to keep sidewalks accessible.
Public transportation was disrupted, with several bus and train lines suspending operations, and more than 160 flights canceled.
The heavy snow comes after lower than average snowfall until mid-January had forced many ski resorts to close down.
Such weather would have been a blessing to the regions relying on winter tourism, but the long awaited snow over the weekend has caused more havoc than good.
The snow was expected to last until Monday evening.
Japan's meteorological agency has issued several warnings and temperatures have dropped far below the average low for January.
Snowfall was also observed in the subtropical Amami Island in southern Japan for the first time in 115 years.
SOUTH KOREANS STRANDED
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.
Known as the Hawaii of South Korea for its beaches and usually warm climate, Jeju took the brunt of a week-long cold snap that sent the mercury plunging to record lows across the country.
The popular holiday destination has recorded its heaviest snowfall in three decades since Saturday, as the temperature dropped to -6.1 degrees Celsius.
The transport ministry said Jeju International Airport would remain closed until at least 8:00 pm (1100 GMT) Monday, due to heavy snow and strong winds.
Close to 1,100 flights were cancelled over the weekend and Monday, stranding some 86,000 frustrated travellers on the island, a ministry official said.
Thousands were forced to spend the night at the airport, bundled up in blankets and sleeping on cardboard boxes to avoid the freezing floors.
Although it was spared any snowfall, the capital Seoul recorded its coldest day in 15 years on Sunday, when the temperature fell to minus 18 degrees Celsius.
On Saturday, the state weather agency issued a cold wave warning for Seoul for the first time in five years.
CRISP MORNING FOR BANGKOKIANS
In Thailand, the temperature dropped to 8 degrees Celsius in the northern most province of Chiang Rai early Monday morning, with the maximum not expected to exceed 9 degrees throughout the day.
According to the Meteorological Department, the cold spell is likely to continue into the week, with the temperature forecast to fall further by two to four degrees
In the capital Bangkok, a city that rarely sees the thermometer dip below 20-25 degrees Celsius, Bangkokians woke up to a crisp morning after the temperature went down to 16 degrees, an impact from the high-pressure zone that continues to cover the country’s north and northeast. It left Bangkokians, whose normal attire generally includes flip-flops and shorts, digging through their closets for jackets and jumpers.
Until Wednesday, Thailand’s northern regions can expect scattered thundershowers, gusty wind and six to ten degree drops in temperature.
Parts of North India shivered too as the mercury hit minus 16.6 degrees Celsius.
The national capital New Delhi was not spared with the temperature dipping below 5 degrees over the weekend.
The cold wave began on Friday, with fog causing delays at Indira Gandhi International Airport and forcing cancellations of train services in the capital.