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January 4, 2010

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Capital on snow alert as holiday break ends

BEIJING traffic authorities have decided to go all out to deal with potential jams or accidents during peak hours this morning after a snowstorm yesterday caused many breakdowns in the capital.

Song Jianguo, head of the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau, said low temperatures and ice-covered roads were expected to severely impact on traffic this morning.

More than 7,000 traffic police would patrol the city's main roads from 7am and 5,000-plus volunteers were earmarked to maintain order at bus stops, Song said.

About 300 temporary buses would be sent to densely populated communities to ease flow, Song said.

Officials in Beijing and Tianjin said yesterday classes in primary and middle schools would be suspended today because of snow.

Tianjin, neighboring Beijing, has closed its airport and shut down large sections of highways.

At the Capital International Airport in Beijing, more than 490 flights were delayed as of 5pm yesterday and more than 750 flights canceled, mostly domestic.

Only one of the three runways remained open, the airport's management said.

A snowstorm that hit on Saturday worsened yesterday.

Guo Hu, chief of the capital's meteorological bureau, said the northern part of Beijing received the most snow, 12.6mm, by yesterday morning. The average snowfall in the city reached 4.8mm.

"I don't remember seeing such a big snowfall in the city ... I am worried about traffic," a Beijing resident, surnamed Zhou and aged in her 30s, said yesterday.

Beijing has mobilized about 300,000 people to clear snow.

Guo said after the snow yesterday the temperature would plummet by 7 to 8 degrees to minus 16 Celsius in the next three days, which would be the lowest in two decades.

The traffic bureau of Beijing said that 60 bus routes were affected by snow, including service suspensions on 47 routes to rural areas.

Airport operations in north China's Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei Province, and Hohhot, capital of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, were also affected.

The Road Network Center under the Ministry of Transport said yesterday 15 highways in eight provinces and cities were closed.

He Jinsuo, director of the Hohhot Railway Station, said because of the flight delays and highway closures, there was a rush for trains.


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