Thursday, November 12, 2009

Snow hits Beijing for third time

Beijingers woke up once again to a snow covered city on Thursday with temperatures barely edging above freezing. Gritting lorries were out in force helping to keep the roads open though pavements were still treacherous for many pedestrians. Snow began to fall across the capital at around 7.00 a.m., and with temperatures falling to -1°C the snow soon began to settle. Commuters, wrapped up in thick coats, scarves and hats, braved the cold as they waited for buses. Others could be seen cycling along the icy roads.

Meanwhile, tourists flocked to Tiananmen Square and took pictures while guards stood frozen in front of the portrait of Chairman Mao both covered in a frosty coating of snow. Many schools have been shut down across the capital and children were taking advantage of the winter weather. Even teenagers and young adults were enjoying the snow, building snowmen and playing snowball fights. One young man even made a mobile phone from snow and posed for photographs in Xuanwu Park.

It is the third time this month that snow has fallen in Beijing, the heaviest snowfall in the Chinese capital in 54 years. Heavy snow covered the city on 1st November bringing disruption for airline passengers and motorists. On Tuesday this week snow brought further chaos. Beijing's airport was shut for 4 hours resulting in hundreds of flight cancellations and angry scenes between passengers and airline staff. Thursday snow has already brought disruption to Beijing International airport with more than 100 flights delayed and at least 59 others cancelled. Stranded passengers were being offered free drinking water. They were also being given meals if delays extended beyond lunchtime, airport staff reported.

While snow showers have subsided, cold temperatures are expected over the coming days. Day time temperatures are unlikely to reach above 0°C and may fall as low as -12°C at night.

In Beijing, snowfall is the heaviest since weather data began in 1955, according to the Chinese government sources. Twenty months ago China suffered an estimated 151.65 billion yuan [$22 billion] in direct economic losses when the country's south was covered by the most severe snowstorms in five decades.

Power grids were knocked out and drinking water was disrupted. Millions of travellers were stranded during the annual Lunar New Year celebrations, forcing thousands of factories to suspend work and causing China's industrial production to expand at the slowest pace in more than a year.

Last year's snowstorm destroyed 11.9 million hectares [29.4 million acres] of cropland, forcing the government to hand out 63.3 billion yuan of subsidies to farmers.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

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