China: Most Severe Snowstorm in 50 Years Create Humanitarian Crisis

( [email protected] ) Feb 08, 2008 01:51 PM EST
World Vision's emergency teams in China begin delivering aid to more than 80,000 storm survivors in four hard-hit provinces.
Residents walk past a damaged electrical pole in a village about 200 miles north of China's southern city of Guangzhou. Emergency crews struggled to restore power to parts of southern China blacked out for more than 10 days by heavy snow as forecasters warned of no quick end to the worst winter weather in 50 years. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (CHINA)

In the midst of Lunar New Year – China’s biggest national holiday – the worst snowstorm in 50 years has battered central, eastern, and southern China for weeks, and 80,000 snow storm survivors are desperately in need of warm clothing and shelter.

World Vision issued a statement stating that emergency assessment teams have been dispatched to the hardest hit areas in Hunan, Guangxi, and Jiangxi provinces, and another team was expected to arrive in Anhui province on Monday.

Seeing thousands of affected children and families, one emergency assessment team has began distributing 15,000 quilts in Hunan on Monday and plan to distribute more than 40,000 quilts to the snow storm survivors in the four storm-weary provinces.

The storm 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, according to Associated Press.

Severe winter weather, which has lasted for nearly three weeks, has created a humanitarian disaster across 17 provinces and regions in China, killing at least 60 people and destroying an estimated 220,000 houses. Transport has come to a halt, and ice has weighted down power lines.

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.