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Early snow storms in China kill 38, damage more than 7,000 buildings; $513 million in damage

November 13, 2009

BEIJING — Unusually early snow storms in northern China have claimed 38 lives in weather-related incidents and caused more than half a billion dollars in damage, the Civil Affairs Ministry said Friday.

Nineteen of the deaths resulted from traffic accidents related to the storms that began on Nov. 9, the ministry said in a news release posted on its Web site.

The snowfall is the heaviest in the area since records began being taken following the establishment of the communist state in 1949, the ministry said. It estimated economic losses from the storm at 3.5 billion yuan (US$513 million).

More than 4.7 million people have been affected by the storms, which have caused the collapse of more than 7,000 buildings, damaged 297,000 acres (120,000 hectares) of crops, and forced the evacuation of 158,000 people, the ministry said.

State media have reported at least two deaths were caused by the collapse of buildings, including a school cafeteria.

The capital Beijing, which lies at the heart of the affected area, has been hit by three successive waves of snow, causing havoc on roadways and forcing the cancellation or delay of scores of flights.

The impact has been far greater in the surrounding provinces of Hebei, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Shandong and Henan, where highways have been closed, schools shuttered, and crews sent to rescue people in their snowbound homes.

Freak snow and ice storms last year hit parts of eastern and southern China unaccustomed and unprepared to deal with such winter weather. Those storms paralyzed key transport systems just as millions of migrant workers were heading home for the Lunar New Year holiday, leading to more than 80 deaths and billions of dollars in damage.

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