Page last updated at 11:41 GMT, Monday, 4 January 2010

Beijing disrupted by record snowfall


The snowy scenes in Beijing

The authorities in Beijing have closed schools and mobilised thousands of people to help clear roads after the heaviest snowfall for nearly 60 years.

Up to 30cm (12 inches) of snow fell in China's capital and its neighbouring port city of Tianjin over the weekend.

Thousands of travellers have been left stranded at Beijing's international airport, and more than 30 highways across northern China are closed.

Officials have ordered residents into work groups to clear the snow and ice.

Heavy snowfall has also led to flight cancellations and delays in South Korea.

Not over yet

The snowfall over the weekend in Beijing was the most the capital has seen since 1951, according to local media reports.

Quentin Sommerville, BBC News
Quentin Sommerville, BBC News, Beijing
Beijingers are a resilient lot.

Even as the snow continued to fall, volunteers were mobilized, and took to the streets with snow-shovels in an attempt to clear it.

It's the heaviest snow in over half a century, over 33cm in some parts of the capital. The city is still functioning, but roads and airports are feeling the pressure.

Some 2 million schoolchildren were given the day off, because of the weather. But it looks like they'll be back at their desks on Tuesday.

The BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Beijing says the cold snap is halting normal activities in an area already used to heavy weather, but is not yet as bad as the 2008 freeze which caused huge power outages and transport breakdowns.

More than 3,500 schools in Beijing and Tianjin were forced to shut their doors on Monday, giving more than 2.2 million students an extra day of New Year's holiday, state media reported.

More than 30 highways in and around the capital were impassable, although ice-covered inner city roads were carrying light, slow traffic.

"Low temperatures and ice-covered roads are expected to severely affect local traffic on Monday," Song Jianguo, the head of the Beijing traffic management bureau, told the official Xinhua news agency.

The authorities warned that the conditions could push up food prices, delay further flights, and hold up some business in Beijing and other cities for several days.

Workers clear the snow outside Tiananmen Gate in Beijing

The cold snap could also strain gas supplies, the government said.

Airport officials told reporters that the runways were being cleared and operations would soon be returning to normal.

However, more than 100 flights were delayed and dozens cancelled, leaving thousands of people stranded, as workers de-iced snow-covered planes unable to take off over the weekend.

Airports in the nearby cities of Tianjin, Hohhot and Shijiazhuang were closed completely and most main roads out of Beijing closed.

Although no more snow is forecast in the capital in the coming days, snowstorms are expected in north-east China and eastern Shandong province.

China's national meteorological office warned that temperatures in its far north could fall to -32C (-26F).

Large parts of the Korean peninsula were also blanketed with heavy snow that caused chaos in Monday's rush-hour.

Gimpo airport in Seoul, a hub for South Korea's domestic flights, was forced to cancel many outgoing and inbound flights because of the snowfall, airport officials said.

Incheon airport, the main international airport west of Seoul, also reported cancellations and delays, they said.


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