Cold continues to grip north

08:25, December 25, 2009      

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The cold snap that has brought freezing temperatures and snow to Xinjiang continued yesterday, spreading to north and central regions and will drop temperatures by 10 C in Gansu, Qinghai, Shaanxi and Ningxia, national meteorologists said.

The National Meteorological Center said the blizzard that began in most parts of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Tuesday night had stopped, but temperatures had kept plunging.

Thursday morning's low temperature in the north of Xinjiang averaged minus 30 degrees Celsius.

More than 20,000 people suffered damage to their homes or economic losses estimated at 10 million yuan (1.5 million U.S. dollars) in Altay Prefecture in northern Xinjiang, a prefecture official said.

More than 1,300 livestock died and almost 2,000 homes were damaged while 34 collapsed under the snow. More than 100 vegetable greenhouses and livestock sheds also collapsed.

The local government had deployed 57 disaster relief teams.

Meanwhile, the cold snap, a result of extremely cold air temperatures in western Siberia, was moving south, bringing wind and snow, and would drop temperatures by an average 10 degrees Celsius in the northwestern provinces of Gansu, Qinghai, Shaanxi and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

The center has forecast heavy snow in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and the three northeast provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning over the next couple of days.

In the Shaanxi Province, the freeze has affected natural gas supplies for almost 10 days.

Hu Li, a home-maker in the provincial capital Xi'an, complained she sometimes could not light her cooking stove. "It's a real headache when I can't prepare breakfast for my daughter before she leaves for school."

A spokesman with Xi'an Qinhua Natural Gas Corp. said the city's gas consumption had topped 5 million cubic meters daily, more than triple the normal 1.5 million cubic meters.

He said the sudden freeze had increased demand for gas and his company would consider capping industrial and commercial gas consumption to meet demand.

The cold is expected to hit Beijing Thursday night, with winds of 40 kilometers per hour.

Beijing's weather bureau has warned merrymakers on Christmas Eve to beware outdoor billboards and Christmas trees that could be blown over and cause injuries.

It said temperatures would plunge to minus 10 to minus 13 degrees Celsius on Friday night, compared with minus 3 degrees on Wednesday night. Friday's high temperature would fall below zero and the northern suburbs could expect light snow.

Several southern Chinese provinces are also struggling with fog, rain and plummeting temperatures.

The National Meteorological Center has forecast rain in Sichuan, Guizhou, Guangdong provinces, Chongqing Municipality and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

In the southwestern Sichuan Province, the heaviest fog of this winter lasted from daybreak to midday and reduced visibility to less than 100 meters in 10 cities, including the provincial capital Chengdu.

In some areas, visibility was less than 50 meters, said Fan Xiaohong, president of the provincial weather bureau.

He said the fog was a result of the sudden temperature drop on Wednesday night and persisting high humidity.

The local road traffic administration said 12 expressways were closed.

The Shuangliu International Airport in Chengdu was closed for nine hours from 3 a.m. to midday, said airport official Lu Junming.

"Altogether 131 flights were delayed and nine were canceled," he said. "About 12,000 passengers were stranded at the airport."

The airport reopened at noon and more than 300 flights were scheduled to take-off or land. "Some departing flights will be postponed till after midnight," said Lu.

About 3,000 passengers were stranded at the Huanghua International Airport in Changsha City, capital of Hunan Province as rare haze blanketing the city delayed 305 flights, 56 of which were canceled, said Li Dengyu, a publicity official of the airport.

All the airport staff were moved to provide food and accommodation services to passengers.

The meteorological bureau said the haze would not start dispersing until 11 p.m. due to thick clouds and slow wind.

Source: Xinhua

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