Snowfall throws life in disarray

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Unexpected snowstorms have left hundreds of unprepared herdsmen short of fodder to feed their livestock in Horqin Right Wing Front Banner (county) in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

Many passengers are stuck in the Beijing Capital International Airport on Sunday after flights to snowstorm-hit Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province, are canceled. [Photo/provided to China Daily]

Many passengers are stuck in the Beijing Capital International Airport on Sunday after flights to snowstorm-hit Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province, are canceled. [Photo/provided to China Daily] 

The snowfall, which started on Nov 21, came more than a month before it was expected and was the heaviest in three decades, leaving more than a meter of snow in some parts of the region.

The blizzard has blocked traffic, killed some 1,200 livestock and affected 52,800 residents, authorities in the North China region said.

Two million livestock have been affected and 1 million hectares of grassland were destroyed, leading to direct economic losses of nearly 200 million yuan ($30 million), officials said.

Meanwhile, about 1,000 herdsmen who had been besieged by the storm on a steppe for a week have been found.

"The herdsmen who had lost contact were found on Saturday night and they are now safe," Yin Jie, an official from the disaster relief office under the Inner Mongolia civil affairs department told China Daily on Sunday.

The department has allocated 800 quilts to the snow-hit area and the government of Hinggan League (prefecture), which administers Horqin, has earmarked 1 million yuan for disaster relief, Yin said.

"We will allocate a sum of money to the disaster area on Monday or Tuesday and we will also ask for a special fund from the central government," she said.

Trunk roads were cleared on Saturday, she said. But footage from the national broadcaster China Central Television on Sunday showed that disaster relief workers were working hard to clear roads blanketed by snow. Traffic to more than 400 residential houses in the snow-hit pasture region was still blocked, it reported.

Although food and water are enough to sustain local residents' everyday life, insufficient fodder stock has made them worry if their livestock could survive the long winter.

Yu Rui, deputy head of the regional disaster relief office who went to oversee the relief work on Sunday told China Daily that for most families, the fodder stock might run out within two months.

The local government has coordinated with financial institutions to provide loans to help herdsmen get through this difficult time, he said.

At the same time, relief goods such as clothes, quilts, food and fodder are being mobilized from other places in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region to the disaster-hit area, the official said.

"Families living in secluded areas where roads are blocked can ride horses to fetch goods at farmers' places where relief trucks can reach," he said.

Local healthcare and education departments have also dispatched response teams to provide timely service to the residents.

The China Meteorological Administration forecast more moderate snow in Inner Mongolia in the next three days.

In most parts of Northeast China's Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces, continuous snow since Friday night has also brought down temperatures and forced airports and highways to close.

The weather bureau in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang, forecast the lowest temperature would fall below -20 C on Monday.

The Longjia Airport in Changchun, capital of Jilin province, was closed twice before 9 am on Saturday, with at least 13 flights canceled.

Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province, also witnessed its biggest snow this year on Sunday. The city's Taoxian Airport was closed at about 11 am due to the thick layer of snow on the runway.

Transport authorities said all major highways in Northeast China have been closed.

Zhang Mingying, a senior engineer with the Beijing Meteorological Station, said the cold air dispelling dust and haze in the previous days would not bring snow as the humidity was low, and the temperature would climb up again this week.

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