From: Reuters
Published January 21, 2008 12:13 PM

Heavy snow in China causes deaths and damage

By Jason Subler

BEIJING (Reuters) - Cold weather and heavy snow have struck unusually large swathes of central and eastern China, causing fatal accidents, bringing down power lines and destroying crops.

Eleven people were killed when an overloaded bus overturned on a snow-covered highway in eastern China, police said on Monday, bringing the death toll from weather-related accidents over the weekend to at least 25.

The accident happened in Anhui province on Sunday when the bus carrying 72 people, 21 more than allowed, overturned in the city of Mingguang. Fifty-one people were injured.

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In the central province of Hubei, 10 people were killed, including one crushed under a collapsed gas-station roof in Wuhan, the provincial capital, the China Daily said.

It did not say how the other nine died.

Six people were killed in Hubei and Anhui in houses collapsing under snow, the Xinhua news agency said on Monday, adding that more than 10 million people in the two provinces had been "affected" by the snow.

A major power line that carries electricity from the Three Gorges dam to Shanghai was damaged by the snow, and over 450 workers were rushing to repair it, Xinhua said.

Crops covering at least 557,300 hectares (2,151 sq miles) and more than 11,300 houses had been destroyed, bringing direct economic losses in the two provinces to more than 1.8 billion yuan ($249 million).

About 300,000 passengers in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, were forced to change travel plans as more than 1,000 km (600 miles) of highway in the region were closed on Saturday due to the snow.

The National Meteorological Centre on Sunday issued an orange alert, the second highest on a scale of five, for more heavy snow in central and eastern parts of the country.

The State Council, or cabinet, on Monday issued an emergency order to local authorities telling them to ensure safe transportation, promptly fix disrupted utilities and make sure that there is an ample supply of food in affected areas.

($1=7.241 yuan)

(Additional reporting by Beijing newsroom, editing by Matthew Jones)

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