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Sudden Storm Startles North China
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The strongest March snowstorm to hit northeast and north China in more than half a century has caused road and rail traffic chaos and flight cancellations in many cities.

The storm whipped up fierce winds at sea, where two rescue ships were dispatched by the Ministry of Communications to ensure the safety of 880 fishermen aboard 67 fishing vessels.

The two ships will closely watch the fishing vessels until the red alarm for the storm surge is lifted.

The fishermen were in the Yellow Sea off the coast of Qidong in east China's Jiangsu Province when a strong storm tide hit, and have been unable to return to harbor.

In Tianjin, a major port on the Bohai Sea, the storm surge caused the collapse of some coastal warehouses, killing two people and injuring several others.

Three of the city's expressways remained closed as of 5 pm yesterday.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Ministry of Railways was quoted yesterday as saying that the snowstorm had blocked several major arteries in north and northeast China, delaying 150 passenger trains.

Most train services were disrupted by thick snow, in some places measuring as high as two meters, he said.

The railway authority has promised to resume traffic by 4 am tomorrow to transport people who need to return to work after the Lantern Festival, traditionally considered the end of New Year celebrations.

In Shenyang, capital of northeast China's Liaoning Province, the city authorities barred most vehicles from the roads yesterday except buses, ambulances, and snow ploughs.

Power and water supply were cut in many parts of the port city of Dalian on Sunday night but had largely been restored as of yesterday afternoon.

In Heilongjiang Province farther north, the blizzard caused the highest precipitation in 56 years, with 49 mm of snow in Dongning, 46 mm in Suifenhe and 41 mm in Jixi.

Shandong Province, the second most populous region in China, received an average 41 mm of rain over the weekend, the highest rainfall for the month, which eased the drought that had been plaguing the province since last September, the provincial water resources department said.

The cold front has caused a sudden drastic drop in temperatures nationwide. In some parts in the south, temperatures have dropped by up to 20 degrees Celsius.

He Lifu, the chief forecaster with the Central Meteorological Observatory, said the unprecedented snowstorm was caused by a violent collision of two strong air currents from the north and south.

The harsh weather should begin to ease today, he added..

(Xinhua News Agency March 6, 2007)

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