A worker de-ices a walkway at the Forbidden City in Beijing on Jan. 4, 2010. (Bloomberg)
Jan. 4 (Bloomberg) — The heaviest snowfall to hit Beijing and Seoul in more than half a century grounded hundreds of planes in the two capitals as temperatures in northern China were set to fall to the lowest in 50 years.
Beijing Capital International Airport canceled more than 500 flights today as of 2 p.m. local time, China Central Television reported. Gimpo Airport in western Seoul grounded 187 flights as of 2 p.m. local time, the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs said in a statement.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao called on local authorities to ensure food supplies, agricultural production and the safety of transportation, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. South Korea mobilized 5,000 soldiers to remove snow from blocked roads, Yonhap News reported today.
Suburban areas of Beijing received more than 33 centimeters (13 inches) of snow yesterday, the Beijing Daily reported. It was the capital’s heaviest daily snowfall since 1951, Xinhua reported.
Among those affected by the weather were Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang and Hong Kong Monetary Authority Chief Executive Norman Chan. Their flight to Beijing last night was delayed by heavy snow and the visit was canceled this morning, Patrick Wong, Tsang’s press officer, said by telephone.
About 90 percent of Beijing’s more than 1,300 flights yesterday were canceled or delayed, according to state broadcaster CCTV. At least three airports in China’s Shandong province were closed today due to the blizzards, it reported.