Cold weather causes six deaths so far in S. Korea this winter

January 18, 2016
A woman wraps a muffler around herself in central Seoul, Monday, when the morning temperature fell to minus 6 degrees Celsius. The temperature is forecast to fall to minus 14 degrees Tuesday morning, and to stay below zero throughout the day. ( Yonhap)

A woman wraps a muffler around herself in central Seoul, Monday, when the morning temperature fell to minus 6 degrees Celsius. The temperature is forecast to fall to minus 14 degrees Tuesday morning, and to stay below zero throughout the day. ( Yonhap)

By Jhoo Dong-chan

Six people have died since December after the cold weather exacerbated their illnesses, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said Monday.

The center said that six senior citizens, mostly suffering from chronic illnesses ― four men and two women ― died of hypothermia. Three of them were found near their homes, while the other three were found in the street.

“Most people who die from the cold are the elderly, those living alone or those with chronic diseases,” a KCDC official said.

Including the six dead, a total of 165 people have suffered from exacerbations of illnesses caused by low temperatures since December, according to the KCDC.

Of them, 115 were male patients, more than double the number of female patients at 50.

By age, 55 were aged 65 or older, followed by those in their 50s. “Fifty something people are active outdoors, and we presume that is the reason for their cold-related health issues,” the official said.

One hundred and fifty three people suffered hypothermia while eight others had frostbite.

More than 31 percent of the patients were afflicted while indoors, mostly because of a lack of home heating due to financial difficulties. Twenty four percent of such people were recipients of government subsidies for living and medical fees.

Health authorities advised senior citizens and chronically ill patients to avoid outdoor activities during cold weather. When going outdoors, they should be accompanied, wear warm winter clothes with plenty of layers and limit their time exposed to freezing temperatures.

“Flu vaccinations are also recommended, as the flu season has just started and may last until April,” the official said.

Cold spell through week

In the meantime, a cold spell is likely to hot the Korean Peninsula this week, with Seoul’s morning lows dipping to minus 6 degrees Celsius, Monday.

The Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) said that the temperature in Seoul is expected to plummet further to minus 14 degrees, Tuesday, the lowest for this winter.

The season’s first cold weather advisory has been issued in many parts of the country. Such an advisory is issued when the morning lows are expected to be at least 10 degrees lower than the previous day.

The temperature is expected to ease up a little Saturday but the mercury will drop sharply once again, Sunday, with Seoul’s morning lows likely to be minus 15 degrees.

“Severe cold is expected to continue throughout the rest of the winter,” said a KMA official.

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