Cold wave freezes China, shutting highways, roads

Reuters :
A cold wave extended its grip over China on Friday with temperatures plummeting to below freezing across most of the country, causing authorities to limit traffic flows on highways in several provinces after vehicles collided on icy patches.

Temperatures will drop to below minus 40 degrees Celsius (minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of the northeastern province of Heilongjiang and in the region of Xinjiang in the northwest, along with Inner Mongolia and the provinces of Gansu and Qinghai, according to forecasts from China’s National Meteorological Centre.

The cold wave that began at the start of this week is moving through the country from north to south and is expected to drag temperatures lower into the weekend even as the Meteorological Centre says rain and snow will decrease.

The city of Yichun in Heilongjiang could see a January 1980 record of minus 47.9 C be broken early next week as severe weather conditions set in.

In Henan province, snowfall and icy roads along with heavy fog caused multiple accidents on several expressways leading to traffic controls.

Traffic authorities in Ningxia region said some of its highways have become unsafe and implemented temporary traffic measures as snow fell. Neighbouring Gansu also saw some highways closed and trains suspended, according to state media.

On Beijing’s outskirts, authorities looking into an accident on a commuter rail line said a train carriage failed to brake while moving downhill, colliding with another car that had stopped because track conditions had deteriorated due to the snow.

Ferries and some buses were temporarily suspended early on Friday in Shanghai as the financial hub issued its first cold wave warning of the year as cold air from the north is forecast to reduce temperatures to as low as minus 6 C this weekend.

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In the southwest, sections of many national and provincial highways in Tibetan cities such as Shigatse and Nyingchi were blocked due to snow, ice and low visibility as the skies have dumped snow since Monday.

The local government has mobilised 2,400 personnel, more than 3,300 metric tons of snow melting agent, and more than 23,000 cubic metres of anti-skid materials for prevention measures. Photos from state media show tractors scooping up snow and people shovelling on roads against a backdrop of white mountains.

Beijing and the provinces of Jiangxi and Shanxi have also taken measures to secure vegetable and fruit harvests from freeze damage and diseases, state media said.

China lifted its warning for blizzards before dawn on Friday but said heavy snowfall is forecast in parts of Liaoning and Jilin provinces in the northeast as well as in Shandong.

In the city of Shenyang in Liaoning, authorities deployed 22,000 workers and over 3,400 machines for snow removal operations, clearing as much as 12,800 cubic metres of snow by early Friday. Its observatory has forecast snowfall and strong winds until Saturday.

The national forecaster said the scope and intensity of freezing rain will decrease on Friday but will still appear in some higher terrains in Guizhou and Hunan.

Next week, cold air will continue to flow across the country from north to south, keeping temperatures low in central and eastern regions. Forecasters said most of the country will see lower-than-usual temperatures over the next ten days.