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Snow to wreak more destruction
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Snowfalls in parts of China have again disrupted transportation 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. Yesterday, 15 flights were delayed at the airport in Jinan, the provincial capital. Some freeways were closed and thousands of vehicles were stranded.

The weather bureau in Shandong said the snowfall averaged four to five centimeters in most of the province, but in Liaocheng city, the accumulated snow was as deep as 10 centimeters.

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$2.5 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.

At least 10,800 sheep, 850 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.

Blizzards were also expected in the northwestern part of the central Hubei Province, already plagued by winter storms earlier this month.

The winter storms that struck much of central and southern China left 129 people dead and losses so far have reached 151.65 billion yuan, said the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Meanwhile, snow 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 said yesterday.

The ministry was concerned about the structural safety of schools in snow-stricken areas, said Jiang Peimin, an official with the MOE. Storms "made 3.5 million square meters of school buildings unsafe," he said. Jiang said more than 280,000 primary and middle school students have been affected by the snowstorms.

(Xinhua News Agency February 26, 2008)

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