SHANGHAI: Heavy snow has returned to large parts of central and southern China, which were hit by killer storms last year, over the past two days.
Beijing's National Meteorological Center said snow and freezing rain had been reported in many parts of Hunan, Hubei, Henan, Anhui and Guizhou provinces, and Chongqing municipality.
Zhai Panmao, a director of the center, said that although the freezing weather will last for some time, there is little chance it will be as devastating as last year's storms that claimed hundreds of lives and caused billions of yuan worth of damage.
With the annual Spring Festival migration already under way, several governments have issued weather warnings.
Since Monday, up to 7 cm of snow has fallen in parts of Hunan, prompting the local meteorological bureau to issue an orange warning for snowstorms and a red warning, the highest possible, for icy roads.
In Wuhan, capital of Hubei, snow had delayed about 50 airlines and stranded 2,500 passengers at Tianhe Airport, but operations were back to normal yesterday.
Several expressways in the province remain closed.
The provincial government has issued an emergency circular ordering all authorities to treat the situation "very seriously".
In response, the agricultural department has stockpiled 4 million kg of food, which will be released to the market as required to maintain price stability.
In Hunan, transport officials are keeping a round-the-clock watch on provincial highways.
Chen Ying, from the traffic police detachment, said: "Traffic arteries like the Hunan section of the Beijing-Zhuhai expressway will be closely monitored."
The road was seriously affected by last year's snowstorms.
Eighty-two de-icing vehicles, 1,100 tons of salt, 100,000 burlap sacks and 60,000 shovels have been readied for use in the event of the weather worsening, he said.
Despite the weather warnings, yesterday's food indexes showed that the price of most meats, eggs and vegetables were stable.
Wang Dingbang, a clerk at the Mawangdui vegetable wholesale market, said: "There is plenty of food and prices are stable."
Meanwhile, in Henan, authorities have stockpiled almost 100 million yuan worth of emergency supplies at expressway service zones.
The items - 5,000 tons of edible oil, 1,500 tons of rice, 8,000 cases of bottled water, instant noodles and medicines - will provide a lifeline in the event of people becoming stranded on frozen roads.
(China Daily 01/08/2009 page5)