Wicked winter whiteout

09:07, November 13, 2009      

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Reports of injuries, collapsed roofs and soaring food prices have flooded the country in the aftermath of massive snowfalls that have pummeled North China since Tuesday.


Icicles hanging from a truck show the severity of the ice and snow in Jincheng, Shanxi province, on Wednesday. (Yuan Wenzhong)

A 22-year-old newlywed surnamed Liu died after a warehouse collapsed Wednesday night in Weiyang district of Xi'an, Shaanxi province, a squatter settlement where more than 600 police officers were deployed to relocate people stranded in crumbling homes.

"Their design may not have taken the load stress factor into account we have to support vulnerable roofs wherever necessary and spray snow-melting agents to reduce pressure," said Luan Xiang, a structural engineer with the L.A. International Architects, Engineers & Planners Ltd.

City administrators bought more than 4,000 bamboo poles to support its cedars and shake off snow, local media reported.

In Hebei province, more than 300 ancient trees within the State-protected Longxing Temple toppled after heavy snowfall.

Satellite monitoring showed almost all of Shanxi province and the Ningxia Hui autonomous region were covered with snow as of Wednesday.

Yang Yanmin, emergency chief of Beijing's Fuwai Hospital, told China Daily that there had been mild increases in the number of patients as a result of the snowfall.

"We receive, on average, around 60 people a day. Now that number is up by about 10 percent to 20 percent," she said.

"Respiratory diseases and heart problems are most common in this cold weather. More than half of the patients with heart problems are older than 65. We recommend everybody keep warm and avoid exposing themselves to sudden changes in temperature," Yang said.

Also in Xi'an, the city's 13,000 cleaners are busy sweeping the streets and operating snow-melting vehicles, assisted by 2,400 municipal administrators, according to mayor Chen Baogen.

Tanks remained on standby yesterday to help de-ice highways in the city.

The last time tanks were mobilized to fight a snowstorm was last January, when the worst blizzard in 50 years in China left 129 people dead and caused economic losses of $21 billion.

In response to the weather, Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province, has stocked enough vegetables for all its residents for a full week, mayor Ai Wenli said yesterday.

Across the country, vegetable and pork prices experienced a slight increase on Wednesday, according to the national agricultural produce price monitoring system.

Cabbage prices increased threefold at Shijiazhuang's Xinshilong supermarket, which was experiencing a supply shortage due to traffic difficulties, its agricultural produce sales chief, surnamed Wu, was quoted as saying by the China News Service.

But the havoc's impact has been minimal throughout markets in the nation's capital, where vendors had stockpiled vegetables ahead of the latest snowfall, the Beijing Evening News claimed.

The prices for most vegetables remained stable yesterday at Xinfadi, Beijing's largest wholesale food market. Analysts, however, stressed that as temperatures fall, vegetable prices will rise until the end of January.

Meteorologists predict the heavy snow will end tomorrow. Cold temperatures, however, are still expected for the coming days.

Yang Wanli contributed to the story

Source:China Daily
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