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Roads closed as snow crimps travel plans

The first major snowfall brought by the coldest temperatures so far this year disrupted the plans of thousands of travelers in north China yesterday.


Eight expressways were closed, and traffic on another six was halted in Liaoning Province after heavy snow began falling on Wednesday night, a provincial government spokesman said.


The Taoxian International Airport in Shenyang, the provincial capital, closed for at least five hours yesterday morning.


Flights resumed at 11am after staff finished clearing the snow off the runway, but almost 1,000 passengers were still stranded at 3pm.


Hundreds of passengers were stranded in Dandong Airport as five flights were delayed because of the snow in the morning. Workers were still cleaning the snow at 5pm.


Flights to Shanghai, Shenzhen, Sanya, Chengdu and Beijing were all delayed. Airports in Dalian and Jinzhou in southern Liaoning were not affected, but airport officials were preparing for bad weather.


"Many passengers asked us whether flights to Shanghai will take off as scheduled tomorrow. We are just not sure," an information officer at Jinzhou Airport said yesterday.


Snow was still in the forecast last night in Dalian.


The cold wave has cut temperatures by 8 to 10 degrees in Heilongjiang, China's most northern province. They plunged to minus 27 Celsius degrees in Harbin, the provincial capital.


The freezing temperatures are forecast to move south across much of China, and the Central Meteorological Station on Wednesday issued an orange cold wave alert, the second most critical level.


The orange alert means temperatures are expected to drop by 12 degrees Celsius within 24 hours. It requires local governments to prepare for potential emergencies, including failures in heating and water supplies and for traffic blockages, according to the CMS.


It also warns farmers to take precautions to prevent crop and stock losses. The cold wave is expected to last until Saturday, but low temperatures could linger in south China next week, the CMS said.


(Xinhua News Agency January 23, 2009)