Heavy snowfall swept Northern parts of China as a cold spell hit during the weekend, forcing traffic to a standstill and killing three Japanese hikers, while prompting authorities to take emergency measures.
Saturday brought the first snow of the year for the affected areas, which included Beijing, Hebei and Shanxi, while authorities have been coping with the traffic, which was partly paralyzed with canceled flights and expressways temporarily forced to a close.
While China's National Meteorological Center (NMC) removed a blizzard emergency alert Sunday evening after forecasts indicated the snowfall would become lighter, heavy snows continued in parts of Hebei, Liaoning and Jilin Provinces as well as the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
Three Japanese tourists died after becoming trapped on a mountain in Huailai county in Hebei, while a Chinese citizen and another Japanese tourist are still receiving medical treatment, the county's publicity department revealed Sunday night.
More than 300 Beijing armed police officers were dispatched to the Beijing-Tibet Expressway near Badaling on Sunday as over 1,000 vehicles were stuck in traffic.
Geng Suzhi, an officer from Hebei's transportation department, told the Global Times that most highways in Hebei are still open, but the expressways in Zhangjiakou and Chengde have been closed.
Parts of the Beijing-Tibet Expressway were opened for access and toll fees were lifted in order to relieve congestion, but a section of the expressway in Inner Mongolia was still suspended on Sunday evening.
Some 23 flights had been called off and five were delayed by Sunday due to the snow, according to the Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA), and Erdos Airport was temporarily closed as the biggest snowstorm in more than a decade hit the region's Xilin Gol area.
"We have 500 people at the airport ready to remove snow, and have added 22 more airport buses in case commuters have trouble getting taxis," a BCIA media officer told the Global Times.
The snow also led to higher prices for food, especially vegetables, according to data from the Xinfadi agricultural product trading center in Beijing. In Henan Province, which was hit by frost, agricultural authorities have been promoting counter-frost technologies among farmers in a bid to ensure vegetable output despite the cold weather.
A NMC weather forecaster told the Global Times that although snow continued in Hebei and Beijing, it has become lighter or become rain in some places. The snow is expected to end on Monday afternoon, according to an NMC announcement.