At least 32 dead after snowstorms in China

Monday, November 16, 2009

Heavy snowstorms in northern China have killed at least 32 people today, according to officials. More than 15,000 buildings had collapsed due to large amounts of snow and 300,000 hectares of winter crops were destroyed, according to the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The ministry estimated that 9.6 million people were affected in some way by the snows, and a further 166,000 people were evacuated from their homes. Most of the deaths were caused by traffic accidents, the ministry said.

Heavy snowfall started on Monday in central and northern parts of China, including the provinces of Hebei, Shanxi, Henan, Hubei, Shaanxi, and Shandong. The capital of Beijing was struck by three successive snowfalls, and dozens of flights at airports were cancelled or delayed. Beijing and the surrounding area is not very well equipped to handle the snows, as they have few de-icing supplies or snowploughs.

The snowfalls are the heaviest in China since records started being kept in 1949, according to the civil affairs ministry. State media suggested some of the snowfall was started artificially, by cloud seeding.