Snowfall turns roads into slippery nightmare

14:58, January 04, 2010      

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City's heaviest snow since 1951 causes increasing number of minor accidents

Beijing authorities were unable to prevent numerous minor traffic accidents on icy streets amid the largest single day of snow in almost 60 years.

METRO found the city's traffic at a resounding halt yesterday morning after at least a foot of snow buried roads.

While streets were emptier compared to normal, commuters who dared to drive said they saw many skidding vehicles bump into road barricades and other cars on icy slopes and turns.

Beijing's traffic management bureau said it was not able to register all minor collisions yesterday. It said no major accidents had been reported.

Over 3,000 officers, or 80 percent of the city's traffic police force, have been on duty to monitor roads since yesterday morning.

The city also dispatched garbage trucks to help clear snow-covered thoroughfares.

An unlicensed taxi driver surnamed Zhu had one of his vehicle's headlights crushed after a rear-end collision on Tsinghua University's campus.

"No one was clearing the snow away," he said. "My car took a sudden left turn on the slippery roads and headed straight into the Volkswagen in front of me."

Qi Jun attempted to drive his Buick car near the West Huixin Street in Chaoyang district but gave up after he lost control a couple of blocks down the road.

"My wife urged me to drive our daughter safely to her dance class," Qi told METRO. "But that would have been almost a miracle in today's disastrous conditions."

While most drivers, including thousands of cabbies, left their cars at home yesterday, some still manoeuvred their vehicles through thick snow and slush at speeds only reaching 10 km per hour.

Cyclists and motorbike riders also struggled to get around. Many pedestrians walked in thick boots to protect their feet. Unlicensed tricycles and cabs tripled their prices to take commuters around.

Authorities expect the extreme weather conditions to bring even worse conditions during Monday's rush hours.

Beijing officials closed schools Monday and are urging private and government organizations to adjust working hours. Less-experienced drivers were encouraged to take the subway, which is boosting services to handle more passengers.

However the snow has not been a headache for everyone.

Carolyn Huynh, an overseas student visiting friends in the capital, said the weather did not stop them from shopping at the Beijing's Silk Market yesterday.

"I think the snow is a lot of fun," the 23-year-old from Texas said. "We thought of taking a taxi, but now I think we will take the subway instead."

Source: China Daily
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