Beijing (AFP) Jan 6, 2010
A frigid Siberian cold front gripping northern and central China has caused coal and power shortages as residents scramble to keep warm, state press reported Wednesday.
Temperatures early Wednesday in Beijing fell to minus 16.7 degrees Celsius (two degrees Fahrenheit) -- the lowest in the capital since 1971 -- as rare snows fell in central and eastern China, the state weather bureau said.
The icy weather has strained the nation's power grid, with the eastern city of Shanghai and the provinces of Jiangsu, Shandong and Hubei cutting power to some areas as they rationed electricity, the China Business News reported.
Rolling blackouts could also occur in other regions, it said, amid forecasts of continued cold weather in central and eastern regions where such temperatures are extremely rare.
Hundreds of thousands of children were kept home from school Wednesday in the Hubei provincial capital Wuhan, where more than 10 centimetres (four inches) of snow fell, the Xinhua news agency reported.
Forecasters with the China Meteorological Administration have said the cold weather would continue through the week, with perhaps more snowfall in Beijing on Friday.
In northeastern China, the nation's coldest region, low temperatures were expected to recover to minus 17 degrees Celsius Wednesday after plummeting to minus 32 on Monday.
The spike in electricity use has crimped coal supplies at power plants as transport out of the nation's northern coal regions was disrupted due to the cold, the Guangdong Daily reported.
The situation evoked memories of an icy cold front that hit in January 2008, bringing record low temperatures, transport chaos, fuel shortages and power outages to a huge swathe of the country.
With coal supplies at some power plants in central China down to about three days, the price of the fossil fuel was rapidly rising, the newspaper said.
Coal producers in China's north had begun charging up to 25 percent more per tonne, while in Guangdong users were paying up to 30 percent more per tonne and expecting higher prices, it said.
The cold front blanketed much of northern China with snow at the weekend, including the biggest snowfall in Beijing in decades.
The weather caused hundreds of flight cancellations, school closures and snarled traffic across northern China.
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Freezing temperatures and heavy snow gripped northern England and Scotland Tuesday, halting transport and major football fixtures and closing airports and hundreds of schools. Storms moved further south late Tuesday, prompting fresh warnings of transport disruptions, with as much as 40 centimetres (16 inches) of snow forecast to fall overnight in some areas. Britain brought in extra gas ... read more
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