One dead, 5,000 evacuated as snow brings more chaos to China

One dead, 5,000 evacuated as snow brings more chaos to China

At least one person died and 5,400 were evacuated as heavy snow destroyed 800 homes and paralysed transportation in China's far western region of Xinjiang, state media said on Sunday, dpa reported.

A week of blizzards and plummeting temperatures had affected some 260,000 people, forced power cuts and damaged more than 5,000 houses in northern Xinjiang, which borders Kazakhstan and Mongolia, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The government sent 5,000 tents, 10,000 padded overcoats and funds totalling 15 million yuan (2.2 million dollars) to the worst-hit areas, the agency said.

Police rescued more than 400 people cut off by snow for 24 hours on a national highway near Xinjiang's Altay city, while at least 1,000 passengers were stranded at the main regional airport in Yining city on Friday, it said.

Record snowfall and freezing temperatures have affected much of northern, central and eastern China over the past 10 days, with meteorologists warning of more severe winter weather over the next three days.

The northern province of Shanxi was the latest to announce rationing of electrical power for commercial use, amid high electricity demand and concerns over dwindling coal stocks.

At least seven other regions had rationed electricity for industrial use while the capital Beijing introduced emergency measures to cope with a shortage of natural gas, used to heat most of the city's homes, earlier reports said.

The severe cold prompted a surge in energy demand at a time when coal supplies were affected by heavy snow in key coal-mining provinces, according to the Global Times newspaper.

Officials reassured the public that households were not at risk, and that the cold spell would end in about one week.

A belt of heavy snow brought temperatures of minus 16.7 degrees Celsius to Beijing on Wednesday, the lowest for 38 years.

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