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US Red Cross braces for possible new storm
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Nov 3, 2012

Early heavy snowstorm hits Beijing
Beijing (AFP) Nov 4, 2012 - Beijing issued its second-highest blizzard alert on Sunday after the Chinese capital was hit by an unusually early snowstorm four days before the start of a key political meeting.

In the 24 hours until Sunday morning the city saw 5.8 centimetres (2.3 inches) of precipitation (rain and snow combined), the highest daily total for any cold season since 1951, the Xinhua news agency said.

The weather prompted city and national authorities to issue an "orange alert" -- the second of four warning levels. Authorities would activate the capital's public heating ahead of the planned November 15 date, Xinhua said.

The national meteorological body on Sunday warned of blizzards in the northern provinces surrounding the capital, which do not normally see snow till the end of the month.

State television reported that four Japanese and one other foreigner were trapped in snow at the Great Wall of China in Hebei province Sunday morning. Three remained trapped in the afternoon, it said.

"We are in close contact with our embassy officials in Beijing and the local government of China's Hebei province," said a Japanese foreign ministry official in charge of safety information for Japanese nationals overseas.

Authorities in nearby Shanxi province temporarily shut 10 highways to avoid accidents, while in Inner Mongolia more than 400 trucks became stuck en route and traffic clogged multiple highways, Xinhua reported.

The ruling Communist Party Thursday begins its 18th congress, a major political event which will appoint a new leadership for the next decade.

The Red Cross relief agency said Saturday it was stepping up efforts to help those struck by Hurricane Sandy, amid fears a new storm could hit the US East Coast next week.

As millions in New York, New Jersey and the region picked up the pieces in Sandy's devastating wake, forecasters are warning another bout of bad weather could bring biting wind, rain and possibly even snow to the region.

"Red Cross' operational priorities right now are logistics, feeding and preparing for the pending storm," Charley Shimanski, the organization's senior vice president of disaster services, told reporters.

"We're pushing heavy mobilization and distribution of food resources."

In particular, the group -- in coordination with local authorities -- was setting up warming shelters throughout the region in coordination with local authorities where those without power could seek refuge.

"We're working closely with emergency operations centers to stand up warming facilities, warming shelters, and stocking those with additional blankets, pillows and everything needed," Shimanski said.

On Friday, the Red Cross served about 400,000 meals and snacks, he said.

The Weather Channel said forecasts point to the possibility of "very windy, rainy and cold" weather from Wednesday into Thursday in the US northeast.

"In simple terms, at this point we do not expect the impacts to 'break anything that is not already broken,'" the TV channel said on its website.

"However the combination of weather impacts will add insult to injury for the recovery process along the East Coast."

With ongoing power outages and fuel shortages, Shimanski said the Red Cross was mobilizing its entire fleet of 323 emergency response vehicles from across the country, as well as its complete volunteer workforce.

This includes calling in reinforcement from abroad.

"To date, more than 4,200 Red Cross volunteers are on the ground, we're mobilizing thousands more," Shimanski said.

"We're bringing in Red Cross support from Mexico and from Canada as well in certain leadership and other roles."

Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said more than 122,000 people had signed up for help and that direct deposits totaling more than $107 million had been approved by early Saturday.

"These numbers continue to go up as people register," he said.

With some 18,000 people in shelters, Fugate said his agency has activated a short-term housing assistance program supplying vouchers for hotels and motels.

Sandy, which made landfall in New Jersey late Monday, killed at least 103 people and brought New York City to a standstill.


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Cold snap kills three people in Poland
Warsaw (AFP) Oct 28, 2012
Freezing temperatures killed three men in their fifties in Poland, police said on Sunday, as several other countries including France and Switzerland were also hit by a cold snap. Police quoted by Polish press agency PAP said that two of the men had been under the influence of alcohol, and the third man was said to be homeless. Last winter, more than 100 people died from hypothermia in t ... read more

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