02/18/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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More snow and it is an emergency right away

More snow blocks Yunnan roads, threatens energy supplies. In Guangdong salt to thaw snow contaminates water and poisons the population. In many areas life is far from being back to normal.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Snow is falling on Yunnan again and half of the province is in tilt with many areas still reeling from the blow delivered by the previous snowstorm. Some Chinese meteorologists complain that weather forecasting in the country is still relying on equipment that is ten years behind the rest of the world. This is why they failed to forecast the major snowstorms that hit especially the mountain regions and caused recent difficulties.

Yunnan. Qujing, Yunnan’s second largest city, is an industrial hub with 5.5 million residents. When it was hit 12 February by an unusually heavy snowfall that lasted several days, ice covered nearly 90 per cent of the city's surface and at least 20 main power lines were damaged.

Snow was particularly hard on railways and yesterday 30,000 people were stranded at rail and bus stations in the city.

About 14,000 kilometres (8,700 miles) of roads in Yunnan are blocked with some 800 long-distance buses stranded at the stations.

Yunnan authorities sent food and water to drivers and passengers stuck in 20,000 vehicles stranded in highways, moving some of them to government shelters or homes of people who live along the highways

With transportation at a halt, the city’s power station, which supplies 56 per cent of the electricity of the province of 45 million people, is running out of coal.

More than two million residents in the city and surrounding areas are without power.

Guangdong. Meanwhile in Shaoguan (northern Guangdong),  local sources said that  the authorities ordered more than 600 tonnes of snow-melting industrial salt be put on expressways to thaw heavy snow but the run-off has entered the water sources of local villages leading to the contamination. Thousands are now without drinking and cooking water and at least 4,500 residents in Hongguang, Daqiao and Kesuxia villages in Shaoguan's Ruyuan County got sick from the pollution.

Entire villages remain isolated in the province’s mountainous areas, including three in Tanling, 230 kilometres from Guangzhou. For three weeks they have been without electricity, clean water or communications after being cut off by snowstorms, and have had to rely on relief goods brought in by an armoured vehicle.

Worst still, tens of thousands of fruit trees, the villagers' main source of income, were destroyed in the blizzards. With nothing left to hang on to for the rest of the year. Many have decided to leave their homes to eke out a living in big cities once the snow melts.

In Cheung Sha Bay the cold snap killed 300 tonnes of tropical fish that cannot survive in water below 15º C. Fish farmers have even had a hard time to remove the dead fish, which they must sell at bargain prices.

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