Snow-besieged herdsmen safe in N China

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About 1,000 herdsmen who had been besieged by a snowstorm on a steppe in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region for a week have been found and are safe, said disaster relief officials in Hohhot on Saturday.

Disaster response teams dispatched by Horqin Right Wing Front Banner (county) government had mobilized local herdsmen to ride horses to visit the people living in secluded areas, where neither telecommunications nor road transport could reach amid the continuing snow.

"No casualties have been reported, and the herdsmen who had lost contacts currently have sufficient and are well-sheltered," said Qiu Feng, a Horqin government official.

Disaster relief workers had cleared major roads leading to the area, but snow swirled up by high winds blocked some road sections.

Snow storms has hit four towns in Xing'an Prefecture, a pasture region about 1,500 km northeast of the regional capital, Hohhot, since last Saturday.

Snow has accumulated up to 30 cm deep in most parts of the region and a meter in some areas.

The snow was 40 days earlier than its usual arrival time and was the heaviest in 30 years. At least 700 heads of livestock are believed to have died in the storm.

The local government has earmarked 1 million yuan (150,000 U.S. dollars) for disaster relief. The civil affairs department has prepared to send relief goods such as quilts to help herdsmen weather through the winter storms in the pasture region.

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