58,000 Evacuations in China Freeze

Torrential icy rain across five provinces in southern China has forced 58,000 people to evacuate their damaged homes, causing economic losses of $200 million, the ministry of civil affairs said.

Freezing rain has pummelled the provinces of Jiangxi, Hunan, Chongqing, Sichuan and Guizhou in the past few days, killing one person and causing more than 1,200 houses to collapse, the ministry added.

The harsh weather in southern China, where winter is usually relatively mild, has damaged 142,400 hectares of crops in the provinces that produce rice, timber and coal.

It has caused economic losses of 1.35 billion yuan ($203.8 million) as of Tuesday, the ministry added.

In south-western Guizhou province, 22,800 people were forced to evacuate their homes on Tuesday, state news agency Xinhua reported.

The icy weather and sleet have paralysed traffic and strained power networks in some areas ahead of the vast migrations of people for the Lunar New Year holiday next month.

Highways in Guizhou have been clogged in the past few days, leaving thousands stranded in their cars as almost all expressways in the province were closed, the Guizhou Provincial Department of Transport said.

On Tuesday, traffic slowly returned to normal in Guizhou as all ice-covered highways reopened after being closed for more than 30 hours.

Guizhou’s provincial weather forecaster warned it could take five more days for the cold and rainy weather to subside.

In early 2008 freezing weather across southern China caused power cuts and transport chaos, preventing many residents from spending the Lunar New Year with their families.

The disruption rippled across the region, causing a brief spike in food prices.

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