Northeast Asian snowstorms kill 32

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The Independent Online

Snowstorms rippling across Northeast Asia have killed at least 32 people and stranded thousands, with rescuers struggling to cut through snowbound roads.

Snowstorms rippling across Northeast Asia have killed at least 32 people and stranded thousands, with rescuers struggling to cut through snowbound roads.

Head-high drifts hindered rescuers trying to reach thousands of people trapped for a week in northern China's Inner Mongolian region.

Drivers of trucks carrying food, fuel and animal feed found some roads impassable and others so treacherous that they could only travel 100 kilometres (60 miles) a day, the state-run Beijing Youth Daily said.

With homes on the vast Inner Mongolian grasslands often separated by dozens of kilometres, rescuers have reached only a fraction of those trapped, the newspaper said.

In Xilin Gol, in central Inner Mongolia, 27 people were confirmed dead and another 14 were missing, China's official Xinhua News Agency said. Snowfalls were 10 times heavier than in previous years.

Xinhua said 947,000 people were affected. Many were unable to work or tend the herds that are the lifeblood of the rural economy. At least 30,000 head of cattle died and about 10,000 were missing, Xinhua said.

In South Korea, the storms began on Sunday, churning up seas and blanketed the country in snow as deep as 98 centimetres (39 inches).

Three fishermen drowned after two boats capsized in high waves near Cheju Island off the southern coast and a fourth was swept away while fishing, South Korea's Central Disaster Headquarters said.

South Korean airports virtually shut down on Sunday. Two dozen houses and thousands of barns and fish farms were destroyed and 1 million farm animals, mostly chickens, were killed, contributing to property damage of 188 bn won (£100 million), officials said.

Parts of Japan got as much as 20 centimetres (nearly 8 inches) of snow in 24 hours by midday on Monday, disrupting rail, road and air traffic. At least one person died in a traffic accident that police blamed on the weather.

By today, 14 local trains were still not running in Japan's Sendai area, affecting up to 4,000 people, Japan Railways official Kayo Amamori said. Sendai is 302 kilometres (189 miles) northeast of Tokyo.

A mass of bitterly cold air from Siberia collided with a moist current sweeping up from the south to create the Northeast Asian storms, China's State Meteorological Administration said.

While snowfall subsided on Monday, South Korean authorities kept a heavy snowfall warning for most of the nation and a storm warning for all seas around the Korean Peninsula. They sent 74,000 soldiers and workers to clear blocked roads.

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