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Snowstorms hit northeast China

Date: 2012-11-13

A woman walks along a snow-covered street in Changchun, capital of Jilin Province, yesterday. Heavy snowstorms cut power and water supplies and closed schools and highways.

HEAVY snowstorms have cut off regional power and water supplies and forced schools and highways to close in northeast China's Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces.

Snow and sleet since Sunday damaged 23 grid lines in the northeastern regions of Heilongjiang, leading to blackouts.

Hundreds of thousands of households and at least 18 companies have been affected.

Local authorities have been urgently repairing power lines. Four major lines were fixed as of 1pm yesterday, according to Heilongjiang Electric Power Co Ltd, but it was unclear when all the repair work would be completed.

A snowstorm, said to be the heaviest to hit for 50 years, also cut off water supplies in Heilongjiang's city of Hegang.

Blackouts also brought public transport to a halt.

The municipal government has earmarked 10 million yuan (US$1.6 million) for disaster relief.

Continuous snow caused the closure of at least two highways in the province - one linking Heilongjiang's capital of Harbin with the city of Tongjiang and the other linking Hegang and Jiamusi, stranding vehicles and passengers.

The snowstorms prompted provincial authorities to issue an orange alert - the second-highest level in China's four-tier color-coded weather warning system - for Hegang and Jiamusi.

Traffic authorities in Harbin have warned that more vehicles will be stranded, as more snowstorms are expected.

Flights between Shanghai and cities in the north suffered delays due to the heavy snow.

Harbin was among the worst affected cities with the snow leaving planes temporarily grounded, airport officials said.

In Jilin Province, where heavy snow fell on Sunday night, authorities have imposed temporary traffic control measures on highways where the frozen roads pose a potential danger to vehicles.

Education departments in Jilin have urged schools and kindergartens in mountainous and semi-mountainous areas of the province to stop classes until the storms subside.

In an emergency notice issued yesterday, the provincial education department asked primary and middle schools, as well as kindergartens, in low-lying areas to stop or reschedule classes according to weather conditions.

Heavy snow has also affected eastern Inner Mongolia, causing the closure of highways, schools and two airports.

Forty-four houses and more than 170 barns have collapsed, but no human casualties have been reported.

The National Meteorological Center issued a yellow warning, the third highest, for further snowstorms in northeast China yesterday afternoon.

Heavy snow or storms were forecast to hit Jilin, Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia and the northwest part of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region overnight and last until this morning, the center said. It urged citizens to stay indoors and urged local governments to prepare for disaster relief efforts.

While most people have had their lives disrupted by the snowstorms, more than 1,000 Siberian tigers in Harbin's Siberian Tiger Garden were spotted playing in the snow. Local experts said the tigers feel more comfortable in low temperatures. (fron: Xinhua)