A rare cold snap in Shanghai is straining utility supplies and has caused a rise in cold-related hospital cases. In the coldest Lunar New Year in four years, temperatures have stuck below freezing for six consecutive days, hitting minus 4.6 degrees Celsius on Sunday. The local weather bureau forecasts a climb to 0 degrees tomorrow. Shanghai also had a snowfall last Friday - the first time in the New Year holidays in 10 years, Xinhua said. The sub-zero weather has pushed power use higher and caused water and gas pipes to break. An underground gas pipe in the central Zhabei district broke on Sunday, leaving about 1,300 residents without gas and hot water for several hours. Electricity use hit a peak of 8.02 million kilowatts over the holiday, up 600,000 kilowatts from the same period last year, although the city has been able to ensure supply. Shanghai struggled with power shortages and blackouts last summer, but many companies which were the target of rationing are now on holiday. Hospitals, operating with fewer staff over the holiday, have seen an increase in cold weather-related complaints. Authorities are urging the elderly and children to stay warm. The cold weather apparently has not cooled the desire to shop, however. Merchants expect holiday retail sales will rise about 10 per cent from last year. In Beijing, after three days of icy cold during the Spring Festival holidays, the temperature crept for the first time above 0 degrees. With the north wind subsiding, people enjoyed the sun and blue skies. The earlier sub-zero temperature did not dampen the enthusiasm of revellers who crowded street fairs. Thundering drums and clanging cymbals accompanied lion dances. In the forecast for the next three days, temperatures during the day are expected to rise to 5 degrees with clear visibility. Evening temperatures will dip to minus 7 degrees. It sounds cold, but much more merciful than the minus 17 degrees last week.