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Heavy snow continues to plague China, damaging crops and disrupting traffic
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07:57, January 21, 2008

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Heavy snow continued to fall over large parts of China on the weekend, causing traffic chaos and damaging crops.

In Hubei, more than 1,000 km of highway, about half of the central province's roads, were closed since Saturday. More then 8,800 of the scheduled 9,500 long-distance coaches originating from Wuhan, Hubei's capital, were cancelled, forcing about 300,000 passengers to change travel plans.

The heavy snow started on Friday and was recognized as the most serious fall since 1991 by Wuhan Observatory. The low temperature also burst water pipelines and froze hydrometers, causing a drinking water shortage for 100,000 people, an unnamed official with the water resources bureau of Wuhan said.

The snow also cut off all highways in the northern province of Shanxi.

In the southern part of the province, snow on the ground reached 10 cm. "Roads were likely to freeze due to low temperature," said Miao Aimei, a meteorologist with the Shanxi Meteorological Station. He added the snow would last until Monday and have tremendous influence on traffic and outdoor work.

The snow coincided with the peak student flow, said a Jiannan coach station employee in Shanxi. "It brings great pressure to Chunyun."

China started Chunyun, the Spring Festival transport season, on Friday, five days ahead of schedule. It is a period when millions of migrants and college students return home.

In eastern Anhui Province, heavy snow affected about 1.21 million people, causing direct economic loss of 210 million yuan (29 million U.S. dollars), the provincial department of civil affairs said Sunday.

The snow started to hit the areas of Anqing, Lu'an, Hefei and others on Jan. 12, affecting 1.21 million people and damaging 87,000 hectares of farmland. Total crop failure was 6,700 hectares, according to a department official.

Yuexi County in the capital Hefei saw its biggest ever snowfall with the maximum depth exceeding 50 cm. Traffic was blocked, while power supply and telephone lines were cut off temporarily in some towns and villages.

A total of 1,033 houses in the province were toppled by snow. Initial estimates showed the snow had caused direct economic loss of 210 million yuan, including 164 million yuan in the agricultural sector.

Highways in the northern part of the province were closed since Saturday. It was unknown when they would re-open.

Tibet Autonomous Region received good news when a highway linking to the northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region was reopened on Sunday evening after being closed for 80 hours because of the snow.

Local government and armed police rescued 25 vehicles and 85 people stranded by snow on the more than 1,000 km section of the highway in the Ngari Prefecture, including the 11-member team, sent to save others and previously reported as getting stuck themselves by the heavy snow on Friday.

With sufficient provisions and medicine, they are in good shape, according to local sources.

Progress to save the 25 people trapped in five vehicles on a highway in Zanda County was steady, said Hong Xuefeng, an official with the Ngari Prefecture.

"As depth in some areas has reached three to five meters, the clean-up work is moving at a speed of one or two km per hour," he said, adding that the stranded was just seven km away from the rescue team by 9 :50 p.m. Sunday and reported as in good condition.

Snow began hitting the prefecture 4,500 meters above sea level on Friday, with the maximum depth exceeding 30 cm. Traffic on the Ngari section of the mountainous highway linking Xinjiang and Tibet had been blocked since that day.

Source: Xinhua

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