Widespread snowfalls paralyse transport and disrupt power grids

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2008, 12:00am

Beijing has stepped up disaster relief efforts as severe snowfalls continue to cause casualties, cut electricity supplies, disrupt traffic and damage crops.

The State Council's Emergency Management Office has issued a circular demanding lower-level authorities put more resources into helping disaster-stricken families, and offer practical help.

The notice said Premier Wen Jiabao had ordered efforts be made to avoid major accidents and limit damage as much as possible.

Lower-level authorities were also asked to ensure normal water, heat and gas supplies and quickly repair damaged infrastructure.

Heavy snow that has hit many parts of the mainland since January 12 continued to plague the country yesterday.

In Guizhou , an influx of cold air since Thursday has formed the most serious hoar frost in 50 years, testing electricity transmission lines. China Southern Grid had recorded 548 power failures by Monday afternoon and 20 substations could not transmit power, China News Service reported.

Power to seven counties was cut, affecting more than 129,800 households. The company has sent more than 4,000 workers for repairs, but work is expected to be hampered by the bad weather, forecast to continue until the end of the month.

In Hubei and Anhui , the two hardest-hit provinces, more than 10 million people have been affected and more than 1 million hectares of crops destroyed, resulting in economic losses of 1.83 billion yuan, Xinhua reported.

At least five people have been killed, three by collapsed roofs, and nine others have died in snow-related road accidents.

Hubei has had to limit electricity supplies due to shortage of coal. The provincial capital, Wuhan , is also suffering a drinking water shortage, with supplies disrupted 5,000 times due to cracks in 2,000km of old water pipes caused by the cold weather.

Half of Hubei's highways have been closed, and more than 300,000 passengers have had to make last-minute changes to travel plans after more than 8,800 long-distance bus trips were cancelled.

In Shanghai, nearly 100 flights were delayed and 20 long-distance bus trips cancelled following days of snow and rain in destination areas, China News Service said.

The Ministry of Railways issued an emergency notice on Monday ordering staff to take measures to ensure the traffic was smooth as the Lunar New Year rush began and passengers switched to railways because roads were closed.

In the south of Xinjiang , at least 3,300 farm animals have died from intense cold and snow in the past five days, China News Radio reported. The hardest-hit areas are experiencing temperatures around minus 25 degrees Celsius.

The National Meteorological Centre said the snow was waning but would stage a comeback on Friday after a short break tomorrow.