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180,000 stranded in southern China as cold weather returns: govt

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Feb 18, 2008
Icy temperatures have swept through south China, stranding 180,000 people and leading to widespread power cuts just as the area was recovering from the worst weather in 50 years, the government said Monday.

The latest cold snap has taken a severe toll in usually temperate Yunnan province, which has been struck by heavy snowfalls since Thursday, a government official from the provincial disaster relief office told AFP.

Twelve people have died there, state Xinhua news agency reported, and four remained missing as of Saturday.

In the province's second largest city, Qujing, 80 percent of the two million residents did not have electricity due to the most recent cold snap and the severe weather that first hit China in early January, the China Daily said.

In the period from January 19 until Saturday, a total of 178,000 people in transit had been left stranded across the province, Xinhua reported.

The snowfalls over the past few days have cut off 14,000 kilometres (8,700 miles) of roads in Yunnan, leaving large numbers of travellers marooned, the newspaper said, citing provincial transport authorities.

In Qujing, six highways have been closed while 42 bus routes have been cancelled, according to the China Daily.

"As the bad weather continues, the rescue work is becoming much harder," said the official from the provincial disaster relief office, referring to helping stranded passengers, clearing roads and getting power back up.

Usually warm Yunnan was one of the areas hard hit by the dismal weather in January and early February which pummelled China's south, southwest and east in the worst winter weather seen in five decades.

The three weeks of severe weather left millions stranded, as the nation's power and transport networks were unable to cope with the blizzards and sub-zero temperatures.

Authorities have said they were not prepared for the weather, which struck as 200 million people, mostly rural migrant workers, were preparing to go home for the Lunar New Year -- believed to be one of the world's largest annual migrations.

China had to mobilise nearly 1.96 million soldiers and reservists to deal with the crisis that left at least 107 people dead and caused more than 15 billion dollars in economic losses, according to official figures.

Destroyed crops, weakened industrial production and the disruption of coal and food supplies were also expected to have a short but potentially nasty impact on the booming Chinese economy.

"China is digging out of January's heavy snowfall that disrupted holiday travel and created shortages of food and energy," said Tim Condon, a senior economist at ING Barings in Singapore.

"Officials have downplayed the potential for a significant impact on growth but have acknowledged the likelihood of an inflation spike."

Economists widely expected prices to exceed seven percent in January, well beyond November's decade-high level of 6.9 percent.

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China weather forecasters 10 years behind foreigners: report
Beijing (AFP) Feb 15, 2008
China's meteorologists have admitted being 10 years behind world standards, a report said Friday, after a surprise spell of freezing winter weather paralysed the country and killed more than 100 people.

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