The heaviest snowfall in decades has pounded southern South Korea, leaving at least one person dead and another injured and forcing nearly 1,200 schools to close temporarily, officials and media reported Thursday. Thousands of motorists had to spend the night on a closed-off highway, shivering in below-freezing temperatures and waiting for food and water from relief workers, reports said. Television footage and newspaper photos showed long lines of snowbound vehicles on the Honam Expressway, the main highway that links the country's central and southwestern regions. The expressway reopened to traffic Thursday morning, officials said.
Up to 45.6 centimeters (17.9 inches) of snow fell in the region on Wednesday, the largest single-day snowfall since the government began compiling weather data there in 1968, the Korean Meteorological Office said.
More snow fell into Thursday, recording 58.4 centimeters (22.9 inches) for Buan, a rural town about 280 kilometers (174 miles) southwest of Seoul, as of Thursday morning, officials said. On Wednesday, a greenhouse at an agriculture research center in Buan collapsed under the weight of snow, killing a 48-year-old man and injuring another.
Reports said a 68-year-old man was also found dead near his house in Jangseong, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of Seoul, but it was unclear if snow could be blamed for the death.
About 880 schools in the region were closed temporarily Thursday, the government's anti-disaster office said, but reports put the number at 1,196.
The snowfall also caused mass flight cancellations as the airports in the southern resort island of Jeju and the southern metropolitan area of Gwangju remained closed for a second day Thursday, reports the AP. I.L.