Seoul buried in heaviest snowfall in 70 years

Yahoo! News (Link) - Hyung-Jin Kim - AP (January 4, 2010)

Seoul residents slogged through the heaviest snowfall in modern Korean history after a winter storm dumped more than 11 inches (28 centimeters) Monday, forcing airports to cancel flights and paralyzing traffic in South Korea�s bustling capital.

The snow and icy roads snarled traffic in and out of Seoul, and at least three people died in traffic accidents. Many commuters squeezed into packed subways to get to work, and a Cabinet meeting was delayed because ministers were stuck in traffic.

The snowfall, which continued through Monday afternoon, was the heaviest in a single day since Korea began conducting meteorological surveys in 1937, the state weather agency said.

Gimpo International Airport in western Seoul canceled 224 flights before resuming service Monday afternoon when the snowfall stopped, airport official Choi Choon-ja said.

More than 20 flights between Incheon International Airport, just west of Seoul, to cities in China also coping with snowfall were canceled. More than 100 flights to other regions were delayed, Incheon airport official Kang Soo-kyung said.

In southern South Korea, three people were killed in a traffic accident blamed on icy roads, according to the Yonhap news agency. However, officials said no deaths or serious property damage was directly related to the heavy snowfall.

About 3,600 workers and 5,000 soldiers were mobilized to clear the snow in Seoul and surrounding Gyeonggi Province, officials said.

The snow and freezing temperatures didn�t stop 50-year-old Park Hee-soon from delivering milk and yogurt to homes and offices in western Seoul. However, Park � trudging through the streets in her regular yellow uniform � said the snow and ice were dangerous.

�I slipped on streets several times today, and my back hurts because of that,� she said.

The snow forced American figure skater Michelle Kwan to cancel appearances in South Korea on Monday. The five-time world champion, visiting the country as goodwill ambassador for the U.S. State Department, had been slated to give a master class to South Korean figure skaters.

She is scheduled to meet with students, U.S. soldiers and participate in a Special Olympics event this week, U.S. Embassy officials said.

Beijing also was digging out Monday from a weekend winter storm.

More than 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) of snow accumulated in the city center Sunday, according to China�s National Meteorological Center. State media called it the highest snowfall in the capital in a single day in January since 1951. Upward of 8 inches (20 centimeters) was recorded in the suburbs of Changping near the Great Wall of China.

Hundreds of flights from Beijing were canceled or delayed Sunday because of the snowfall.

Primary and middle schools were closed in Beijing and the nearby port of Tianjin, and with snow plows in short supply, more than 300,000 people were assigned to clear snow in the capital with shovels, scrapers and brooms.

Heavy snow also blanketed Sapporo on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, forcing the main airport to cancel nearly 80 flights since last Wednesday.

In South Korea, not everyone was complaining.

�It�s something unique in Seoul,� Kang Kyung-hye, a 58-year-old housewife, said after taking a photo of the snow-covered statue of 15th-century ruler King Sejong downtown.

Nearby, dozens of police in neon uniforms used shovels and shields to clear away the snow and helped push cars stuck in snowdrifts.