Monday, January 28, 2008

China: Snow kills 24 & strands thousands

Snow in Suzhou, near Shanghai in southern China

At least 20 people have died in China as severe winter weather swept across the vast continent. There is also widespread travel chaos in the run up to the Lunar New Year. Millions of people are trying to return home for the Chinese New Year but thousands have been stuck at railway stations and airports. At least 170,000 people have been stuck at Guangzhou railway station, in the southern Guangdong province, where most trains have been cancelled. Others have been stranded because of blocked roads and some areas are reported to have run out of salt to spread on icy surfaces. Xinhua News reported that 24 people had died since the 10th of January and that nearly 80 million had been affected in 14 provinces including Anhui, Jiangxi, Hubei and Hunan. Among the deaths, 10 were killed in collapses of homes weighed down by the snow and another 10 died after falling on slippery roads. Two people drowned and two were hit by falling trees laden with heavy snow.

The heavy snow has also destroyed crops, affecting more than 4.2 million hectares of farmland. According to official sources, about 107,000 houses have collapsed and nearly 400,000 others had been damaged by the heavy snow. Direct economic losses are estimated at ¥ 22.09 billion [$3 billion]. The bad weather is also being blamed for some of the losses seen on the Shanghai composite which saw a 7% drop today [CNN / Xinhua News / BBC]

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