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Frigid Cold in North Asia Sets Record Low, Snarls Transport

(Bloomberg) — Freezing weather in North Asia has seen temperatures plunge in China and South Korea and left Japan bracing for blizzards.

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The temperature in Mohe, northern China, dropped to a record -53C (-64F) on Sunday in a cold snap that is expected to continue into this week and South Korea’s capital recorded -16C on Tuesday. Northern and western Japan may see heavy snow through Thursday, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

Colder-than-usual weather is set to prevail in the region until the end of this month, which may boost heating demand in major energy importers China, Japan and South Korea. For now the effect is likely to be muted, with factories shut in China for the Lunar New Year holidays and Japan able to count on stockpiled liquefied natural gas to feed its power plants.

Officials in China’s Mohe have increased boiler activity to continue to be able to provide heating and hot water to houses, boosting coal consumption to about one-third higher than normal, according to local media, and there have been no reports of power or fuel shortages. Frigid air in Heilongjiang means many parts of the province will flirt with record low temperatures through Wednesday, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

Many parts of Japan may see snow Tuesday, with temperatures set to drop below freezing on Wednesday in major cities including Tokyo, Nagoya and Fukuoka, the JMA said in a forecast. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism on Monday urged people to refrain from going outside in the event of heavy snow and for drivers to take necessary precautions.

Canceled Flights

Japan Airlines Co. said that flights may be delayed or canceled because of the weather on Tuesday and Wednesday. ANA Holdings Inc. said 78 domestic flights were cancelled on Tuesday, and 10 will be cancelled for Wednesday. Railway operators West Japan Railway Co. and Kyushu Railway Co. also said schedules may be disrupted.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. delayed the launch of a communication satellite scheduled for Wednesday to at least Thursday, with the final decision weather-dependent, the company said. Toyota Motor Corp. is halting its plants in the southern island of Kyushu on Wednesday due to snow.

South Korea was also hit by the cold wave during the Lunar New Year holidays, with temperatures dropping to -25C in Gangwon Province on Tuesday. Government officials inspected major power plants in Seoul and ordered full preparation for spikes in energy consumption, Yonhap News Agency reported.

Flights to and from Jeju Island were disrupted after snow and cold wave alerts, with almost 500 inbound and outbound planes canceled as of Tuesday, Dong-A Ilbo newspaper reported, citing Korea Airports Corp. Heavy snow is expected to continue in Jeju and in the southwest of the peninsula until Wednesday.

–With assistance from Tsuyoshi Inajima and Sohee Kim.

(Updates story with Toyota Motor suspending operations at plants)

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