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Death Toll in Snow-hit Hunan Rises to 20

The death toll in Hunan Province, one of the worst-hit provinces in the snow crisis that has gripped the country in the past three weeks, has risen from 17 to 20 as the extreme weather continued to wreak havoc.

Yang Mingbo, deputy director of the Hunan Provincial Department of Civil Affairs, said 39.27 million people in the province had been affected by Sunday and more than half a million people had been relocated because of the bad weather.

The department had previously said 17 people have died in the disaster by Thursday. The deputy director did not specify how and when the three new deaths occurred.

The snow starting from January 13 also toppled 82,000 houses, damaged crops on 2.5 million hectares and froze 609,000 heads of livestock to death, Yang added.

More than 3.5 million people faced shortages of drinking water.

The disaster in Hunan, where the north-south arteries of Beijing-Zhuhai Expressway and Beijing-Guangzhou Railway passed, caused road traffic paralysis in some parts of south China, leaving millions of people stranded.

Meanwhile, Chenzhou city in central Hunan, home to four million people, has been without electricity and running water for more than a week because of the severe snow that had damaged power facilities and burst water pipes.

The local governments of Hunan have been providing quilts, clothes, food and cash for the people affected by snow, including 1.43 million people stranded on highways and rails.

(Xinhua News Agency February 5, 2008)

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