Beijing releases most comprehensive figures on the winter 'catastrophe' The worst snowstorms to hit the mainland in nearly 50 years have killed 107 people and caused 111.1 billion yuan in direct economic losses so far. Mainland insurers have paid out more than 1.04 billion yuan for deaths and damage caused by heavy snowfalls that wreaked havoc on central, eastern and southern areas over the past month, Xinhua reported. It said insurers had paid 975 million yuan for property claims and 65 million yuan for health and life policies. These are the most comprehensive figures on the disaster released by Beijing. Civil Affairs Minister Li Xueju told the news agency yesterday that 21 provincial-level areas had been affected. About 1.5 million people had been evacuated from their homes, with the extreme weather leading to the collapse of about 354,000 houses. Mr Li said more than 1.93 million stranded passengers, most of them eager to return to their hometowns for the Lunar New Year holiday, had been forced to change their plans. Premier Wen Jiabao chaired a State Council meeting yesterday to set priorities for reconstruction work. Warning of an arduous task ahead before the hardest-hit areas recovered, Mr Wen urged all relevant ministries and local governments to give their best in an attempt to 'minimise damage caused by this natural catastrophe'. He ordered that all downed power grids be repaired and nationwide power supplies be restored to normal by the end of next month, Xinhua said. The government said this week that power and transportation had been restored in most storm-damaged areas. But South China State Grid, the company that runs southern China's power transmission grid, said the extent of the damage meant repairs to its network might not be completed until late March. Mr Wen also ordered increased coal production, stable food and petrol supplies and effective allocation of relief money to victims. Another priority was to ensure 'an appropriate amount' of subsidies reached farmers in the hardest-hit areas so that spring sowing and forestation would not be delayed. Crops in the disaster areas were ruined and many people faced serious livelihood difficulties, Xinhua quoted Mr Wen saying. Mr Li said the icy weather had devastated nearly 25.3 million hectares of farmland and affected about 177 million hectares. It had also damaged a tenth of the country's forests. He said eight provinces or regions - Hunan , Guizhou , Jiangxi , Anhui , Hubei , Zhejiang , Sichuan and Guangxi - were worst-hit. President Hu Jintao yesterday called on the People's Liberation Army to continue to support the disaster relief work. Mr Li said 535 million yuan in emergency funding had been allocated to 19 affected areas, with another 710 million yuan earmarked for temporary subsidies for urban and rural residents in the worst-hit areas. Some 2 million cotton-padded coats and quilts have been sent to the disaster-hit areas and 43 tonnes of relief supplies were dropped by air in Sichuan and Guangxi. Mr Li said Chinese citizens had donated about 1.2 billion yuan in cash and relief supplies to the disaster-stricken areas by Tuesday. The weather has cleared in most areas after three weeks of snow, sleet and freezing rain. Rail, road and air services are returning to normal.