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China Continues to Suffer from Snow, Despite Signs of Recovery

East China's Anhui Province reported four more deaths from snow-related accidents on Wednesday. At least 55 people have died from the worst snow in decades around the country.

Nearly 11 million people in Anhui have been affected by the snow and eight have died, up from the previous count of four, by 11 AM on Wednesday, according to the provincial disaster relief office.

About 1.12 million people in 599 villages were facing power failure on Wednesday and 550,000 suffered from communication paralysis, the office added.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Hunan division of the State Grid said two electricians died while making repairs in the central Hunan Province.

Heavy snow had killed at least 38 people and affected 17 provinces, including Anhui, Jiangxi, Hubei and Hunan, by 6:00 PM Tuesday, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Provinces in central and northwestern China on Wednesday reported more losses from heavy snow, while southern provinces reported signs of recovery from the weather.

The heavy snow had affected 407,800 people in the central Henan Province between Jan. 11 to Jan. 29, costing an estimated 246 million yuan (US$34.2 million), according to the provincial civil affairs department.

A total of 687 houses were collapsed by the snow and 204,200 hectares of crops were damaged. Authorities have so far evacuated 2,725 people from unsafe houses.

In northwestern Shaanxi Province, 756,500 people have been affected, including 1,200 who were ill or injured in snow-related accidents. In addition, 182,300 people faced a drinking water shortage.

More than 6,400 domestic animals and poultry died in the cold, while 340 houses collapsed. Shaanxi's losses from the snow stood at 187 million yuan, according to the provincial department of civil affairs.

In Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, about 300,000 people around the Taklamakan Desert, China's biggest, have been affected and 44,600 heads of livestock have died. The desert, with an annual precipitation of up to 100 millimeters, is currently covered in four centimeters of snow.

In Kashgar, the worst hit area in Xinjiang, more than 2,100 greenhouses collapsed under the weight of snow and ice. Many others were damaged, leading to price increases for vegetables. Xinjiang regional government has allocated 30.2 million yuan for disaster relief.

The snow, the heaviest in decades in many places, has been falling in China's east, central and southern regions for more than a fortnight. It has caused death, structural collapses, blackouts, highway closures and crop destruction.

The Baiyun Airport in Guangzhou, the capital of southern Guangdong Province, was able to send 35,000 passengers to their destinations. Service from Guangzhou to Shanghai, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Wuhan and several other cities resumed, but 2,000 passengers were still stranded.

Another airport in Guangzhou -- Shenzhen -- was able to move 15,000 passengers to their destinations although more than 100,000 were still stranded. Among the 337 flights scheduled by Shenzhen Airlines, 107 were delayed and 22 were canceled.

The southern part of the Beijing-Zhuhai expressway, a north-south trunk road, reopened to traffic headed north at 6:00 PM on Wednesday after workers removed ice from the road surfaces, according to local highway companies. The southbound lanes were still being de-iced. About 20,000 people were trapped in vehicles backed up for kilometers along the Hunan section of the expressway as of Tuesday.

A section of expressway in northern Guangdong was still blocked by ice on Wednesday morning, stranding more than 1,000 vehicles. The expressway was re-opened to north-bound traffic on Wednesday afternoon. More than 70,000 passengers had been stranded there at the peak of the disruption. More than 115 ice-clearing machines had to be used to reopen the section.

Through Tuesday, the snow had affected 1.6 million people in Guangdong Province. The economic loss was estimated at 995 million yuan (about US$138.2 million). The local government has sent 357 million text messages about weather and transportation to the public.

(Xinhua News Agency January 31, 2008)

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