Early Snowstorms Kill 40 Across North-Central China
BEIJING (AP) 芒鈧?Unusually early snowstorms in north-central China have claimed 40 lives, caused thousands of buildings to collapse and destroyed almost 500,000 acres of winter crops, the Civil Affairs Ministry said Friday.
The snowfall is the heaviest in the northern and central provinces of Hebei, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Shandong and Henan since recordkeeping began after the establishment of the Communist state in 1949, the ministry said without giving detailed figures. It estimated economic losses from the storm at the equivalent of $659 million.
Chinese state media said some of the snow was induced through cloud seeding, a measure intended to ease lingering dry conditions. The precise amount of snowfall in all areas was not reported, though, and it was not clear what the previous records were.
Hebei芒鈧劉s provincial capital, Shijiazhuang, received the heaviest snowfall. By Thursday, after three days of snow, 1.8 feet had accumulated, the largest amount since 1955, the China Meteorological Administration said Saturday.
More than 7.5 million people have been stranded or otherwise affected by the storms, which caused the collapse of more than 9,000 buildings and forced the evacuation of 158,000 people, the ministry said.
The collapsed buildings were an unwelcome reminder of weaknesses in China芒鈧劉s infrastructure. China芒鈧劉s leaders came under heavy criticism after the collapse of school buildings in the devastating 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province that killed thousands of children.
Beijing has been hit by three successive waves of snow, causing havoc on roadways and forcing the cancellation or delay of scores of flights.
Highways across the surrounding provinces have been closed, schools shut, and crews sent to rescue people in their snowbound homes.
Freak snow and ice storms last year hit parts of eastern and southern China unaccustomed to such weather. Those storms paralyzed important transportation systems just as millions of migrant workers were heading home for the Lunar New Year.