News24

Deadly winter in China

2010-01-18 18:02

Beijing - Rescue workers were evacuating thousands of rural residents from parts of north-western China after extreme cold and blizzard conditions killed four people and left half a million snowed under, meteorologists said on Monday.

At least 100 000 homes were either flattened or damaged by the storms in Xinjiang, and more than 15 000 head of livestock were killed by the cold front that set in on Sunday night.

Herders moved thousands of others to safer pastures at lower altitudes ahead of the latest storm front, which is expected to last through to Wednesday.

Temperatures in parts of Xinjiang are set to plunge to -43°C by midweek, according to Xinjiang Meteorological Station forecaster Wei Rongqing.

Wei said snow was falling in the region's Altay district, where accumulations had already risen to 94cm. Altay lies in China's extreme north-western corner, 2 600km northwest of Beijing, the capital.

"Livestock raising has been hit hard. Both wild animals and livestock haven't been able to find food, but now forage has been allocated by the central government," Wei said. At least 500 000 people in total were affected by the harsh weather, he said. The figure includes those who suffered property damage and supply shortages or were isolated by snow drifts and icy roads.

Direct economic losses were being estimated at 300 million yuan as of Thursday and were expected to continue rising, Wei said.

"We're taking emergency measures, including evacuating remote areas," Wei said. Calls to Xinjiang government spokespeople rang unanswered.

Parts of northern China are seeing their harshest winter in decades, with Beijing this month receiving its heaviest one-day snowfall in 59 years. Temperatures in the capital were due to rise above freezing this week.