SEOUL — Helicopters dropped food and fuel to thousands of drivers marooned on highways across South Korea, officials said Saturday, after the worst March snowfall in decades blanketed the country's central region.
After struggling in snow for more than a day, about 4,000 motorists who had been stranded on highways were able to begin driving again late in the afternoon as roads were cleared, the Korea Highway Corp. said.
"Although traffic jams remain in several areas, now there are no stranded cars," an official at the corporation said. "We blocked entrances near the congested areas to help fully normalize traffic."
At noon, about 2,200 cars had been stuck on two major highways linking the capital, Seoul, to cities in the south, according to the corporation.
The government mobilized 39 helicopters and 20,000 soldiers to meet motorists' basic needs.
"We've delivered bread, water, blankets and even gas," said an official at the National Disaster Prevention and Countermeasures Headquarters, which estimated damage from the snowfall at $138.5 million.
Cable news broadcaster YTN showed rows of motionless cars surrounded by knee-deep snow. "I left home around 10 a.m. yesterday. I've been now sitting in the car for some 24 hours," Park Won Shik said.
A heavy snowstorm that began late Thursday dumped up to 19.3 inches in central South Korea. The Korean Meteorological Administration said it was the heaviest snowfall in the region since at least 1969.