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Severe weather alert level raised
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The China Meteorological Administration (CMA) on Friday put weather officials on a heightened state of alert as widespread rain and more snow was forecast for central and western provinces.


The CMA activated a level-three severe weather emergency plan requiring weather offices to guarantee 24-hour staffing, provide continuous updates on forecasts, alerts and disasters, and to warn and prepare the public.


The plan was initiated in units directly under the CMA and the Meteorological Bureau in Guizhou, Yunnan, Hunan, Hubei, Henan, Anhui and Shaanxi provinces.


The severe weather was expected to hit from Jan. 25 to 28, said Xu Xiaofeng, deputy director of the CMA.


The CMA's weather warnings fall into four levels in accordance with their severity and status of emergency. Level three is "relatively severe".


"It is predicted this weather will severely affect transport, communications and energy supplies and people's work and lives," said a CMA statement.


At the same time, Hunan Provincial Meteorological Observatory in central China released red alert for ice on roads, reminding the public of the freezing road surface temperature.


The snow, the worst in a decade in many places, has hit most of the country since Jan. 12, leaving homes collapsed, power blackouts, highways closed and crops destroyed.


Eight people have died in snow-related accidents, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs. About 32.9 million people have been affected in 10 provinces, including east Anhui, central Hubei and west Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Total damages are estimated at 6.23 billion yuan (865.3 million U.S. dollars).


China's Ministry of Finance announced on Friday it had allocated 28 million yuan (3.84 million U.S. dollars) to fund the relocation of local residents in Hubei and Hunan provinces.


(Xinhua News Agency January 26, 2008)

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