Heavy snow, sandstorm strand rescuers at airport

10:58, April 26, 2010      

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Hundreds of rescuers heading for quake-hit Yushu are stranded at Xining airport of northwest China's Qinghai Province due to heavy snow in Yushu and a sandstorm in Xining, the provincial capital.

The air route from Xining Caojiabao Airport to Yushu was recently dubbed as "lifeline of the air" as it was vitally important for getting immediate relief and rescuers to Yushu, which was jolted by a 7.1-magnitude earthquake on April 14.

All the six daily flights from Xining to Yushu were delayed, said a spokesperson with Caojiabao Airport.

A sandstorm had shrouded the airport, with the airport terminal smelling of dusty sand and chairs covered by the yellow grit. Hundreds of rescuers were still waiting at the airport as of 11 a.m., and it was unknown when the flights would be resumed, the spokesperson said.

The sandstorm also engulfed three other regions in north China, namely Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Gansu Province and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Gansu has been blanketed in the worst sandstorm of the last nine years since Saturday with the visibility in Minqin County of Wuwei City and Jiuquan City was reduced to zero during Saturday night, according to Lanzhou meteorological observatory.

"Before the sandstorm hit, the weather was fine and it was not even sunset yet, but next thing you know, a strong wind bringing heavy sand blew at me, like a wall of sand, and the sky suddenly became dark," said a resident at Minqin.

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