China has ordered a stepping up in disaster relief efforts on Sunday for the worst snow in 50 years as the weather was forecast to become milder next week.
The southern regions, hardest-hit by snow and freezing rain during the past three weeks, were forecast to experience rainy intervals next week, according to the China Meteorological Administration (CMA).
The rain was expected to come to a halt between Feb. 6 and Feb. 9, therefore the snow and ice would start to thaw with the rising temperature, the CMA said.
The State Council, China's cabinet, ordered to beef up efforts to clear the snow- and ice-covered roads and restore rail and road traffic to take stranded passengers home and transport more coal and disaster-relief goods.
It urged to repair power equipment and resume power supply to the disaster-hit regions at a quicker pace.
It also called for more traffic safety measures as heavy fog is currently shrouding Hunan, Zhejiang, Hubei, Jiangsu, Anhui and Jiangxi provinces.
The government urged local authorities to take good care of the millions of migrant workers who were stranded for days before giving up the hope of returning home for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.
The migrants have helped to reduce pressure on the strained rail and road systems that were at one time paralyzed by disastrous snowstorms, the State Council said in a statement.
The local authorities were also required to provide accommodation and food for those still stranded in railway and bus stations, ports and airports.
The Ministry of Finance has ordered to raise the allowance and offer a temporary subsidy to the poor in disaster-hit regions to help them cope with price increases in daily necessities.
Zheng Guoguang, CMA head, blamed the La Nina phenomenon and abnormal atmospheric circulation for the disastrous weather that has killed at least 60 nationwide and left millions facing a cold, dark Lunar New Year holiday.
La Nina is a large pool of unusually cold water in the equatorial Pacific that develops every few years and influences global weather. It is the climatic opposite of El Nino, a warming of the Pacific.
Zheng said the La Nina conditions developed in August throughout the tropical Pacific and strengthened at the sharpest pace in 56 years. The sea-surface temperature during the past six months was 0.5 degree Celsius lower than normal years.
He added the abnormal atmospheric circulation in the mid- and high- altitude regions of Europe and Asia, which has persisted for nearly 20 days since mid-January, was also a culprit of the rampant chilly and snowy weather.
(Xinhua News Agency February 4, 2008)