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January 19, 2010

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Extreme cold besets NW China

RESCUE workers evacuated thousands of rural residents from parts of northwestern China after extreme cold and blizzard conditions killed four people and left half a million snowed under, meteorologists said yesterday.

Storms in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region flattened or damaged about 100,000 homes and 15,000 head of livestock were killed by the cold front that set in on Sunday night.

Herders moved thousands of others to safer pastures at lower altitudes ahead of the latest storm front, which is expected to last through tomorrow.

Temperatures in parts of Xinjiang are set to plunge to minus 45 degrees Celsius by midweek, according to Xinjiang Meteorological Station forecaster Wei Rongqing.

Wei said snow was falling in the region's Altay area, where accumulations had already risen to 94 centimeters.

"Livestock raising has been hit hard. Both wild animals and livestock haven't been able to find food, but now fodder has been allocated by the central government," Wei said.

Some 500,000 people in total were affected by the harsh weather, he said. The figure includes those who suffered property damage and supply shortages or were isolated by snow drifts and icy roads.

Direct economic losses were being estimated at 300 million yuan (US$44 million) as of last Thursday and rising, Wei said.

"We're taking emergency measures, including evacuating remote areas," Wei said.

Parts of northern China are seeing their harshest winter in decades, with Beijing this month receiving its heaviest one-day snowfall in 59 years. Temperatures in the capital were set to rise above freezing this week.


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