BEIJING – Emergency crews rushed to restore electricity to parts of southern China damaged by unusually heavy snows, and forecasters said Friday that new storms could lash the area next week.
In the midst of Lunar New Year festivities — the nation's biggest holiday of the year — Beijing sought to show that its emergency relief operations were bringing normalcy to central and southern provinces hard hit by a month of recurring snow and ice storms.
As of midday Thursday, work crews had reconnected nearly two-thirds of the 6,774 electrical lines cut during the storms and were repairing the remaining downed lines, according to a notice posted on the Web site of the State Council, China's Cabinet.
Emergency shipments of 400,000 tons of potatoes, onions, turnips and other food and vegetables headed off potentially inflationary shortages, the statement said. "In some areas, the price of meat and vegetables even went lower," it said.
The storms hit areas of China unaccustomed to cold, snowy weather, catching governments unprepared, and struck just as the country was gearing up for the holiday period, when tens of millions of Chinese travel. To recover, the communist government mobilized the military to clear roads and railways and ordered speedy handling of emergency supplies.
The government's weather service, the China Meteorological Administration, said another cold front would move across the southern part of the country over the next four to 10 days, bringing with it snow and rain. The service said the front would be weaker than the recent weather patterns.
The severity of the winter storms and their timing exacerbated already high inflation, driven by rising food prices, and shortages of coal, which fuels most of China's economy.