A record-breaking snowfall pounded South Korea's east coast on Saturday, stranding hundreds of motorists on highways and destroying dozens of houses, officials said.
President Lee Myung-bak ordered the military to help clear waist-high snow that blanketed the area and transport emergency food to isolated residents.
Some sections of a highway linking Seoul with Gangneung, a major city on the east coast, were once off-limits. A major road connecting several cities in the area, including Sancheok and Yangyang, was closed for 18 hours, stranding some 250 vehicles there under sub-zero temperatures.
According to the Gangwon Regional Meteorological Administration, the amount of two-day snowfall in the area reached 110 centimeters in Samcheok, 100.1 centimeters in Donghae, 56.3 centimeters in Daegwallyeong, a mountain pass near the east coast, and 42.8 centimeters in Sokcho as of 5 p.m. Saturday.
Gangneung received 77.7 centimeters of snow on Friday alone, the heaviest single day record since weathermen began keeping records there in 1911, officials said.
All roads except for major motorways and houses in the city were buried under more than 1 meters of snow. Most taxis and city buses stayed away, and some drivers complained that they could hardly find their own cars in parking lots, let alone pulling them out.
The snowfall caused mass cancellations or delays of bus and train services. Bus services on 293 routes in the area were suspended or were scheduled to end earlier than usual for the day, officials said.
The roofs of dozens of houses, livestock sheds and vinyl greenhouses collapsed under snow. In Samcheok, the roof of a bowling alley caved in under snow.
Damages to farming facilities were tentatively talled at 3.55 billion won ($3.15 million), the Gangwon provincial government said, adding that the amount is expected to snowball when local authorities launch an official survey on Sunday. (Yonhap)