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New round of snow snarls traffic, kills livestock
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Fresh snow in parts of China has again disrupted transport and killed livestock, as the country struggles to recover from the worst winter in half a century.

Snow started to blanket the eastern province of Shandong on Sunday and from 10:00 AM Monday, 15 flights had been delayed at the airport in Jinan, the provincial capital. Some freeways were closed and thousands of vehicles were stranded.

In the Ili River Valley in the far western Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, blizzards raged from Thursday to Saturday. About 12,000 cattle were killed, causing losses of 18 million yuan (US$2.52 million).

"The continuous heavy snow and wintry weather last week have sharply increased fatalities among ewes and lambs, as it is the breeding season," said Ma Cheng, director of the husbandry bureau of Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture.

By Sunday night at least 10,830 sheep, 848 oxen, 240 horses and 90 pigs had been killed.

The region experienced prolonged icy weather in the middle of December. Since then, 69,700 cattle had died in Ili. In the past few weeks, the river valley was stricken by ice flows.

Alxa Right Banner (county), in northern Inner Mongolia, also suffered the worst snowy weather in 50 years. The local government said 519 people were affected, 89 others were evacuated and 40 herdsmen households had difficulty in finding drinking water.

In Ehen Hudag, seat of the Banner government, water supply was suspended to 2,169 families because water pipelines burst under extremely cold weather. Water supply was not expected to resume until May.

The snows and freezing weather also deprived 80,000 livestock of food. Another 3,200 livestock were either dead, injured or lost. The local government said the snow disasters had brought them a direct economic loss of at least 1.2 million yuan.

Prolonged snow in Xinjiang forced the closure of five airports in Kax, Hotan, Aksu, Kuqa and Altay in the past three days. The Aksu Airport was closed from 9:00 a.m. Saturday till 1:00 pm Monday.

Twenty-five domestic flights from Urumqi to Beijing, Chengdu, Yinchuan, Shanghai, Chongqing and other places were delayed.

From Tuesday to Wednesday, heavy snows are expected in southeast Tibet and northwest Yunnan Province. Tibet would see a temperature drop of up to four degrees centigrade throughout the region and winds up to force nine in the south, according to the region's weather bureau.

The regional meteorological authorities also warned the snow would affect transport and animal husbandry, and urged people to make preparations.

Heavy snow and blizzards have been forecast for China's central, eastern and northern and northwestern regions, including Xinjiang, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Hubei, Henan, Anhui and Jiangsu, the National Meteorological Centre said on its website (www.nmc.gov.cn) on Monday.

In Jiangsu Province, widespread snow began on Sunday night. The provincial meteorological authorities on Monday morning issued a yellow alert warning of icy road and suggested that residents should avoid traveling by bicycles.

Blizzards were also expected in the northwest of central Hubei Province, which was plagued by winter storms earlier this month.

The winter storms that struck much of central and southern China left 129 people dead and losses have reached 151.65 billion yuan (US$21.11 billion), according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

(Xinhua News Agency February 26, 2008)

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