Monday, January 04, 2010

Heavy snow brings chaos to Beijing

Heavy snow blanketed Beijing on Sunday, shutting roads, disrupting public transit, and delaying or cancelling at least 200 flights. Some parts of Beijing saw more than 12 centimeters (about 5 inches) of snow Sunday. At least 200 flights were postponed or canceled at Beijing Capital International Airport, with only one of the three runways at the airport remaining open.

Temperatures fell to -10 degrees Celsius on Sunday and night time temperatures plunged to -13 degrees Celsius. The snow and the low temperatures created treacherous conditions to the roads and many highways were shutdown. Around 15 highways in eight provinces and cities were closed, because of the snow and foggy weather. Hundreds of lorries were left stranded as a result and many lorry-drivers had to sleep in their cabs overnight as temperatures fell. 

The main Badaling Expressway heading out of Beijing was shut with lorries blocking the road for many kilometres [pictured]. Traffic was diverted onto minor roads many of which became impassable. Many motorists became stranded after their vehicles broke down and there were several collisions as icy roads made braking difficult. One taxi crashed into the central reservation on a highway on the outskirts of Beijing and in another incident a car collided with a water tanker. Other vehicles had difficulty staying on the road altogether and several could be seen abandoned in ditches and at the sides of main roads. 

Authorities in Beijing and Tianjin announced on Sunday that primary and middle schools would be closed on Monday. Tianjin, neighbouring China's capital Beijing, closed its airport and shut down highway traffic due to the bad weather.

At least 60 bus routes were affected by snow, including service suspension on 47 routes to the rural areas. As a result a decision was made to keep the Beijing subway open throughout the night to help the public get home. However some rail services were affected and workers were deployed to help clear lines. Taxis also became scarce both through increased demand and the fact many drivers had made the decision not to take to the road due to the hazardous conditions. 

Airport operations in north China's Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei Province, and Hohhot, capital of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, were also affected by the heavy snow.

Tourists appeared happy with the snowfall and hundreds flocked to parks and to parts of the Great Wall which was particularly picturesque. But for ordinary Beijingers the snow brought only misery and inconvenience. For rural farmers the snow has resulted in financial ruin as many crops have been devastated by the bad weather.

Although no more snow is predicted, icy temperatures are set to continue throughout the week. Monday's top temperature in the capital was not expected to rise above -11 degrees Celsius and strong north-westerly winds are likely to make it feel much colder [BBC / CNN / Xinhua]

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

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