Snow has forced more than 1,300 primary and middle schools in southern and central China to postpone the start of the new semester, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said here on Monday.
The ministry was concerned about the structural safety of schools in snow-stricken areas, said Jiang Peimin, director with the MOE. Storms "made 3.5 million square meters of school buildings unsafe for further use without repair," he said.
He added that more than 280,000 primary and middle school students have been affected by the snow storms.
Jiang said that the ministry had allocated 2.2 billion yuan (about 301 million U.S. dollars) to help the worst-hit provinces fix up unsafe school buildings.
Among the 1,300 schools where semesters were delayed, more than 1,000 were in the central province of Hunan, where prolonged low temperatures, icy rain and heavy snow persisted from mid-January into February.
By Feb. 23, more than 485,000 houses around the country had collapsed due to the heavy snow, which had claimed 129 lives and caused 151.65 billion yuan in losses.
Earlier this month, the MOE ordered all primary and high schools in snow-stricken areas to step up safety inspections before the new semester. It instructed local education departments and schools to examine the structural safety of school buildings and facilities and ensure the safety of food and water to protect students from infectious diseases.
(Xinhua News Agency February 26, 2008)