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Freezing temperatures grip much of East Asia

By Shawn Price   |   Jan. 25, 2016 at 4:59 AM

HONG KONG, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Extreme and deadly cold gripped much of East Asia, even as North America began to thaw.

As many as 85 people died in record low temperatures in Taiwan, while airports, schools and highways were shut down across Asia in heavy snow and sleet.

More than 100,000 flights were cancelled or delayed by weather in South Korea and China.

The deaths in Taiwan were caused by hypothermia or cardiovascular disease set off by the unusual plunge in temperature, state media reported, with many of the dead between the ages of 65 and 93. People, especially the elderly, have been advised to stay inside.

Temperatures in Hong Kong were the lowest since 1957, forcing the closure of schools. Officials also urged people to avoid hikes in local mountains were sub-freezing temperatures made roads dangerous. Because of its sub-tropical location, there is no central heating in most buildings.

Along with cancelled flights, road closures, rail delays and suspension of ferry services disrupted plans for Lunar New Year travel. The 40-day season typically carries about 2.91 billion people from the China's larger urban areas to its smaller towns.

Seoul, South Korea is suffering through it coldest winter in 15 years, with temperatures just below zero and thousands of travelers were stuck in airports over the weekend due to cancelled flights.

The tropical island of Okinawa in Southern Japan saw snow for the first time since 1966 and the island of Amami Ohshima got a dusting of snow for the first time in over a century. Many other cities across Japan were seeing historic snow falls, including cities where snow is rare. More than 60 flights were cancelled as well, transportation authorities said.

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