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Record snow hits China

BEIJING, Jan 4 – Record snow disrupted air and road travel in northeast Asia on Monday, grounding dozens of planes in China and South Korea and forcing schools to close in Beijing, with more freezing weather on the way.

One person was killed and at least two others were missing in the mountains of central Japan after snow fell across the region.

The Chinese capital on Sunday received its heaviest daily snowfall in nearly six decades, the state Xinhua news agency reported.

The Central Meteorological Administration reported that up to 30 centimetres (12 inches) had fallen on Beijing and Tianjin over the weekend. While skies were clear in the capital Monday, more snow was expected in northeast China.

At Beijing\’s international airport — where nearly 1,200 flights were cancelled or delayed on Sunday — workers had cleared the runways and the situation was returning to normal, an airport spokesman told AFP.

More than 100 flights were nevertheless delayed and two dozen cancelled as of early Monday, the spokesman said, adding that workers needed to de-ice the snow-covered planes that were stuck at the weekend.

"I don\’t remember ever seeing such heavy snowfall in the city," one female Beijinger surnamed Zhou told the China Daily.

In the South Korean capital Seoul, around 26 centimetres (10 inches) of snow fell Monday, marking the biggest snowfall since record-keeping began in 1937, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA).

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The blanket of thick white snow forced the cancellation of dozens of domestic flights and about 40 international flights were delayed, airport officials said.

On the roads, up to 30 highways in Beijing and the surrounding areas were closed or only partially open to traffic on Monday, the China News Service reported. Inner-city roads remained icy and covered with snow.

More than 5,000 volunteers were deployed to keep order at crowded bus stops, Xinhua quoted Song Jianguo, head of the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau, as saying.

In Seoul, traffic was chaotic, forcing the late start of a cabinet meeting, with ministers stuck in the wintry mess. More snow was expected in Seoul later Monday, but clear skies were forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday.

The city government in the South Korean capital said it was mobilising 3,500 civil servants and 1,200 vehicles to remove snow from all major roads and streets.

More than 3,500 schools in Beijing and Tianjin were forced to shut their doors on Monday, giving more than 2.2 million students an extra day of New Year\’s holiday, state media reported.

Temperatures in Beijing were expected to drop to minus 16 degrees Celsius (three Fahrenheit) on Monday, the coldest in the capital in decades, the China Daily reported.

In northern Heilongjiang province, the mercury has already plummeted to minus 36 Celsius, the paper said.

Farther east in Japan, police said they had found the body of a climber on Mount Hodaka in central Gifu prefecture. It was not immediately clear if it was the body of one of three climbers who went missing there at the weekend.

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Another party of seven were rescued safely after becoming stranded on Mount Terachi, also in Gifu prefecture, due to the heavy snow, he said.

The South Korean weather office said snow also fell in North Korea, with at least eight centimetres reported in the western port of Haeju.

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