All hands to the rescue asnew deluge of snow looms

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 February, 2008, 12:00am

Army and police keep transport links working

Bad weather forced at least 14 airports in eastern and southern China to close again yesterday as the nation braced for a new round of snowstorms expected to hit tomorrow and on Tuesday.

Airports in Zhejiang , Jiangsu , Jiangxi , Anhui , Hunan and Guizhou suspended services due to snow and ice on runways. More than 500 flights at Shanghai's two international airports, Pudong and Hongqiao, were delayed and 13 cancelled by noon yesterday, leaving thousands of passengers stranded, Xinhua said.

Shanghai, which for the first time in 135 years posted a yellow snowstorm alert, one under a red alert, on Friday, received 22cm of snow yesterday.

In Huzhou , Zhejiang, at least 36cm of snow fell yesterday. Five cities and counties in Jiangsu also received 30cm of snow, the highest in 50 years, local weather reports said.

Heavy snowfalls and icy rain closed the highway linking northern and southern China, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

The ministry said that more than 34km of the Beijing-Zhuhai highway had frozen over in Hunan and Guangdong, stranding thousands of trucks.

It said the authorities had despatched at least 600 workers and 10 de-icing vehicles to clear the road.

China Central Television said 80,000 PLA soldiers had been sent yesterday to help de-ice part of the highway that runs through Chenzhou in Hunan.

The PLA had despatched at least 306,000 soldiers and local governments had sent 1.07 million militiaman to help with relief work, Xinhua said, adding that more than 100 PLA generals and 100 military aircraft were also involved.

More than 500,000 police had also been sent to key railway and highway points to maintain order and ease traffic jams.

The Central Meteorological Station said snow and sleet was expected to ease last night in southern regions. But a new cold front was moving in and was likely to bring more snow tomorrow and on Tuesday and could last until Thursday or Friday.

Chief weatherman Yang Guiming told Xinhua that much-needed warmer temperatures were unlikely even after the snowfalls end after the new year holidays.

'In many provinces, roads will remain icy, and it takes time to return to warm temperatures,' Xinhua quoted Mr Yang as saying.

'When it gets warm and the ice and snow melts, we have to watch out for road mishaps, floods and other problems.'

The bad weather has killed at least 60 people and left about 100 million facing a cold, dark Lunar New Year in 20 provinces and regions, Xinhua said, adding that weather experts now rated the snowstorms as a worse disaster than the 1998 Yangtze River flood which affected 2.3 million people.

The Insurance Regulatory Commission said insurance claims could reach as much as 3.5 billion yuan.

Crisis by numbers

20 provinces affected by storms

306,000 troops deployed

1.07 million militia and reservists deployed

60 deaths at least

8,000 freight trains delayed

in the past week

11.2 million migrants will stay in Guangdong over the New Year

holiday (60 per cent of total)

53.8 billion yuan in losses

15.8 million livestock, including poultry, killed

223,000 homes destroyed

862,000 homes damaged

3.5 billion yuan likely cost for insurance companies




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