By 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, disasters caused by prolonged low
temperatures, icy rain and heavy snow had killed 38 people since
Jan. 10, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said on Wednesday.
The deaths were mainly caused by house collapses, falls on
slippery streets and drowning, the ministry said. The toll,
however, did not appear to include those killed in traffic
accidents on icy roads.
Altogether, 17 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities
have been affected, and 1.6 million people have been evacuated to
The snow had affected nearly 6.7 million hectares of farmland,
led to the collapse of about 149,000 houses and damaged 602,000
others. Direct economic losses were estimated at 32.67 billion yuan
(about 4.5 billion U.S. dollars).
Five provinces -- Hunan, Hubei, Guizhou, Jiangxi and Anhui --
and the Guangxi Autonomous Region were the worst hit by the
unprecedented severe weather.
The prolonged snow, rain and cold in east, central and south
China over the past half month have caused deaths, structural
collapses, blackouts, highway closures and crop destruction,
causing unprecedented damage, the ministry said.
Civil Affairs Minister Li Xueju announced during a video
conference on disaster relief on Wednesday that the ministry had
put people stranded on highways and in railway stations into the
temporary social assistance system.
We "must keep disaster-stricken people and those stranded on
highways and railway stations safe from starvation and cold," Li
said. "We should pay special attention to ensure no one died from
hunger or cold."
Li asked local civil affairs agencies to pool disaster-relief
resources from all sources "at all costs" to provide needy people
with necessities including water, food, clothes and bedding to
ensure social stability.
(Xinhua News Agency January 31, 2008)