East Asian countries are facing one of the worst winters to have hit the region in over 60 years as temperatures continue to plummet. Taiwan recorded the highest toll of 85 deaths as of 24 January evening, due to the cold spell.
The Taipei government said the cold wave pushed temperatures to a 16-year record low of 4C in the capital city. Focus Taiwan reported that the maximum number of deaths was due to hypothermia and cardiovascular disease as the vulnerable were caught off guard by the abnormally cold weather.
Hong Kong, China, South Korea and Japan are also facing freezing temperatures that have caused massive transport blockades, power failures and phone network outages. The popular South Korean resort island of Jeju witnessed its biggest snowfall in three decades, causing its airport to shut down and hundreds of flights to be cancelled with close to 86,000 passengers being stranded on the island, according to AFP. The Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) said the country experienced record lows this winter with temperatures plummeting to -18C in Seoul, the first since 2001.
Residents in Hong Kong were exposed to temperatures as low as 3C, the lowest in nearly 60 years with some parts of the country enduring severe frost. Pictures of Hong Kong receiving its first snowfall in decades have swamped social media, but weather forecasters said the precipitation was "rain with small ice pellets" rather than snow. The Hong Kong Observatory said if temperatures drop to 0C, it will be the lowest ever in over 120 years.
China has already issued a yellow alert, the third level in a four-tier system, for severe weather. Beijing could see temperatures plunge to -17C on 25 January, while regions in the north could experience -40C. In Shanghai, the lowest temperature in 35 years was recorded on 24 January morning with a low of -7.2C, not experienced in the city since 1981.
China's People's Daily said on its Weibo social media account that the city of Guangzhou recorded its first snowfall since 1929. Emergency workers have also been put on standby with several flights being cancelled and highways closed.
In Japan, the Kyodo news agency said five people had died and more than 100 injured in weather-related accidents across the country in the past 24 hours.