10,000 stranded at Beijing airport as snow brings chaos to capital

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 December, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 December, 2004, 12:00am

Beijing's first big winter snowfall caused chaos yesterday, with outbound flights delayed, expressways closed and tourist sites shut down.

Officials at Beijing Capital International Airport said many flights were delayed and more than 10,000 travellers stranded.

A 216-strong team was used to clear the snow from the runways and measures were taken to melt the ice and snow.

Normal operations resumed at the airport at about 4pm.

Elsewhere across the mainland, eight airports in northern areas, including Zhengzhou , Qingdao , Urumqi , Hohhot and Jinan , were closed due to heavy snowfalls yesterday.

In the capital, snow started falling in the early hours, causing trouble for commuters heading to work.

Sections of key expressways were closed, while traffic jams occurred on some main roads.

All roads leading to tourist sites in suburban Beijing, such as the Great Wall, were cut off, while bus services were suspended on 15 routes leading to mountainous areas, Xinhua reported.

Though many drivers abandoned their journeys, the number of minor traffic accidents still soared. 'I saw five car collisions on the way to my office downtown,' said Li Jie, an office worker living in the suburbs.

Many commuters chose to take the subway instead of buses, making the already overcrowded underground system even more crowded.

The rail network in Beijing was also affected. Nineteen trains were delayed as about 3,000 people were sent to clear the tracks.

A forecast by the Chinese Central Meteorological Station on Tuesday said central, eastern and northern China would see snowfalls in the next five days.

Beijing weather officials forecast that tomorrow and Saturday will see temperatures of between minus six degrees Celsius to zero.

The capital will see a white Christmas, as the snow is not expected to melt.