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NE China City Cleans up After Weekend Snowstorms
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After two days of extensive clearance operations, Shenyang, capital city of northeast China's Liaoning Province, is finally returning to normal, following severe snowstorms that hit the city and many other parts of northeast China over the weekend.

The majority of the city's 900,000 middle and primary school students returned to classrooms yesterday. They had been forced to stay home for two days as the storms, the worst in 56 years, paralyzed the city.

Those in the suburban areas will have to wait a few more days before snow is completely cleared.

"All arteries, highways, and the airport are now open," an official surnamed Li from the Shenyang Public Emergency Office said.

In Shenyang, a city with population of 7.5 million, the snowstorms have caused major disruption to traffic, airline schedules, and the railway.

Taoxian International Airport was enveloped in snow and closed for almost 50 hours, and all 11 expressways in Liaoning Province were closed for more than 48 hours.

A total of 10 people were killed in accidents in the region. Among them, five died as two tower cranes collapsed in Dalian in Liaoning Province. Two commercial buildings also collapsed, killing three people in Shenyang.

On Sunday, the Shenyang government was forced to declare a state of emergency and enforce emergency measures. Local authorities mobilized firefighters, soldiers, and public servants to help in the massive snow removal operations.

Yu Dongyang, chief of Shenyang traffic police, said all 1,880 police officers have been on duty over the past few days.

All companies and residents were also asked to clear the snow around their buildings.

This snowstorm was the rarest in the provincial meteorological history. Statistics from the Anshan Meteorological Station show that on March 1-3, 1971 the province experienced a rare strong snowstorm with the snowfall reaching 46.6 mm, but it is still less severe compared with that of this year (78 mm).

Residents can expect a light snowfall on Sunday night, according to the weather service, but Li from the Emergency Office said it would not have a major impact on traffic.

"The only problem is how to deal with the piles of snow in the city. The only thing we can really do is wait for warmer weather," he said.

The snowstorms, however, have helped to ease the spring drought that plagued provinces in the region over the past few months, said Zhang Lixiang, deputy director of the Liaoning Provincial Meteorological Bureau.

Liaoning Province has experienced its warmest winter in 56 years, leaving large tracts of farmland parched.

Meteorologists say that the historically extreme high temperature during this season is one of the reasons leading to the historically strong storm. It is a result of the strong cold air from the Baikal Lake in the north meeting with the warm cyclone from the Yangtze River and Huaihe River areas in the south.

(China Daily, China.org.cn March 8, 2007)

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