BEIJING – Unusually early snowstorms in north-central China have claimed 40 lives, caused thousands of buildings to collapse and destroyed almost 500,000 acres of winter crops, the Civil Affairs Ministry said Friday.
Nineteen of the deaths resulted from traffic accidents related to the storms that began Nov. 9, the ministry said.
The snowfall is the heaviest in the northern and central provinces of Hebei, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Shandong and Henan since record keeping began after the establishment of the communist state in 1949, the ministry said. It estimated economic losses from the storm at more than $650 million. Chinese state media say some of the snow was induced through cloud seeding, although the precise amount of snowfall in all areas was not reported and it wasn’t clear what the previous records were.
Hebei’s provincial capital, Shijiazhuang, received the heaviest snowfall. In the three days ending Thursday morning, the snow accumulation there reached 1.8 feet, the heaviest since 1955, the China Meteorological Administration said today.
Beijing has been hit by three successive waves of snow, causing havoc on roadways and forcing the cancellation or delay of scores of flights.
The capital and surrounding areas are little prepared to deal with such heavy snow, with few plows or road deicing supplies. Snow tires and chains are almost unknown and many drivers simply leave their cars at home and turn to public transport in such conditions.