Shandong bears the brunt of blizzards as cold front moves southwards

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 January, 2010, 12:00am

The cold weather system that caused transport chaos in the north over the weekend began moving further southwards yesterday, bringing intense blizzard conditions to Shandong province and sub-zero temperatures below the Yangtze River.

There were fresh snowfalls as far down as Hunan province and the weather forced power restrictions in Wuhan, capital of neighbouring Hubei province, due to the shortage of coal.

Fog in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, caused further delays and cancellations of dozens of flights, with 76 affected by early evening.

Temperatures fell even further in the worst-hit regions of Beijing, and the far north and east of the country, with the mercury predicted to go as low as minus 32 degrees Celsius in some parts tonight, the coldest this winter. But they were spared further snow.

Shandong bore the brunt yesterday as near whiteout conditions closed roads and disrupted traffic. The province's weather bureau said the area's worst affected were around the cities of Yantai and Weihai - with some having more than 10cm of new snow by early yesterday morning - and warned about severely low temperatures, icy roads and high winds throughout the peninsula.

Temperatures in Shanghai plunged below freezing, bringing icy conditions to the city's streets. Local weather officials predict the business capital will likely stay chilly until the weekend.

The cold weather in southern regions is already placing a strain on the electricity grid. Unlike the north, homes built south of the Yangtze River do not have central heating, meaning residents have to rely on power-hungry air-conditioners and electric heaters. Coal supplies were beginning to run short in Shanghai, Jiangsu, Hubei and other central provinces, according to mainland media reports.

Elsewhere, work continued to restore transport links, with most main highways and key routes reported to be back in order by last night.

Rescue workers in Inner Mongolia freed a 15-carriage train that had been buried in massive snowdrifts for more than 12 hours, leaving 1,400 passengers inside without heat or light. Some 2,000 police and farmers had spent hours digging by hand. The train rolled into Hohot just before 3.30am yesterday morning, more than 30 hours late. 'There were no incidents and none of the passengers were injured. That is the one thing we have to be thankful for,' a railway worker on the train told China Central Television.

Schools in Beijing and Tianjin were reopened after being closed on Monday as a safety precaution.

Dozens of truck drivers had been stranded overnight in a 20-kilometre tailback after snow blocked a highway on the capital's outskirts, Beijing News reported yesterday. The problem was reported to have been fixed by last night.

Streets in the capital - turned into a virtual ghost town in the aftermath of the snowstorm - had largely returned to normal yesterday morning after a mammoth effort to clear snow the previous day, largely carried out by hand. Traffic levels were still relatively light in the morning as residents apparently sought to avoid the slippery conditions, but the usual level of congestion was back by the evening rush hour.