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Thousands stuck in airport as China freezes
January 06, 2013
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BEIJING: Thousands of angry passengers were stranded after heavy fog delayed flights at a Chinese airport early on Saturday, as the country was shivered through its coldest weather in almost three decades.

Temperatures in China have plunged to their lowest in almost three decades, cold enough to freeze coastal waters and trap 1,000 ships in ice, official media said at the weekend.

Ten thousand passengers were stuck in Changshui International Airport in the southern Chinese city of Kunming on Saturday morning after thick fog grounded more than 280 flights, state-run Xinhua news agency said.

Angry passengers stranded at the airport for more than a day struggled with airline staff, damaging computer equipment belonging to an airline, while police broke up scuffles, a photographer present at the scene late on Friday told the reporter.

“The passengers were really furious, they kept going to the service desk to ask for information, but didn’t get any answers,” the photographer said.

Flights at the airport resumed on Saturday afternoon after the fog lifted, Xinhua said.

China is suffering its coldest winter for 28 years, the news agency on Saturday quoted China’s Meteorological Administration as saying.

Temperatures recorded over the country since November have averaged minus 3.8°C, while northeast China saw average temperatures of minus 15.3°C, its coldest winter for 43 years.

Plunging temperatures trapped around 1,000 ships in sea ice off eastern China’s Shandong province this week, Xinhua reported, while snowfall delayed more than 140 flights in Beijing last month, the China Daily said.

An annual Ice and Snow Festival in the northeastern city of Harbin, famous for its enormous ice-sculptures, is scheduled to open today, as temperatures in the city fall below minus 24°C.

Temperatures in northern China are expected to pick up next week, although parts of south China will continue to experience snow, Xinhua reported.

Zheng Dong, chief meteorologist at the Yantai Marine Environment Monitoring Centre under the State Oceanic Administration, told the paper that the area under ice in Laizhou Bay was 291 square kilometres this week.

Transport around the country has been severely disrupted. One truck driver in southeastern Jiangxi province, caught in a 5-kilometre queue caused by a pileup that happened after heavy snowfall, told  China Daily the snow and extreme cold had caught him unawares.

“I didn’t expect such a situation, so I’ve brought no warm coats or food. All I can do now is wait,” trucker Yao Xuefeng told the paper.


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