As cold snap expands, is another disastrous winter coming to China?

08:37, December 16, 2010      

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China's National Meteorological Center alerted central and southeast China to a blizzard on Wednesday as a bitter cold front kept expanding southward, enveloping China in snow and record-low temperatures.

Snows have now covered most of southern China. Even the subtropical Guangdong Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region will see temperatures drops up to 10 degrees centigrade, according to a statement from the center.

The ongoing Asian Para Games in Guangzhou, capital city of Guangdong, were affected by the weather. The wheelchair tennis competition had

to be held indoors, with some matches being delayed on Wednesday.

A snowfall, starting at 8:45 a.m., has coated Nanchang City, capital of east China's Jiangxi Province, in white. Forecasts say snowstorms will continue to ravage most of Jiangxi until Friday.

With the average temperature having dropped from about 9 to 1.7 degrees centigrade, most parts of central China's Hunan province are being pounded by rain, snow and hail storms.

The weather has also begun to disrupt traffic.

Flights leaving an airport in Jiangxi were canceled as snows affected visibility of pilots. In Hunan, drivers had to slow down to avoid accidents and construction work was halted amid the bitter cold as migrant workers crowded railway stations.

Hunan and Jiangxi are only two of the many provinces and region to the south of the Yangtze River being hit by snowstorms.

The National Meteorological Center forecast temperatures in most parts of China would start to climb on Friday. However, that brings little comfort to people now enduring the bitter cold. "What's more worrisome is that colder days are still ahead of us," said Sun Zheng, a migrant worker in Hunan.

January and February are usually the coldest months in China. It is also the country's busiest traffic season when migrant workers and students head home for family reunions during the Spring Festival Holidays.

The last 40-day travel rush, that ended on March 11, recorded 2.29 billion long-distance bus trips. Also, more than 29 million Chinese traveled by air and over 204 million people traveled by train during the period.

The travel rush had been an ordeal for China's traffic system. It could be disastrous when accompanied by snowstorms.

The carpeting snows in central and southern China have started to remind people of a blizzard in January 2008, which left 129 people dead and caused losses of 151.65 billion yuan (22.7 billion U.S. dollars) in the same area.

On Nov. 29 China's Ministry of Railroad called for railway stations across China to start bracing for the coming Spring Festival travel rush. The rush will start around Jan. 19, 2011.

Meanwhile, many northern Chinese cities, that have already been swept by the cold front, reported the coldest temperature in a decade for this period.

In an extreme case, temperatures in Hulunbuir City in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region dropped to minus 46 degrees centigrade. Beijing also reported a record low temperature on this date in the past 10 years.

Further, ice sheets have been seen off the coast of the Bohai Sea and Yellow Sea in east China as the northern part of the seas have begun to freeze.

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