|Platelayers clear ice on a highway in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, Jan. 5, 2011. As cold waves came to Chongqing, several highway in the municipality were covered with ice. Local government in Chongqing enacted emergency procedures aiming to ensure the operation of road traffic. (Xinhua/Chen Cheng)
BEIJING, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- Icy weather and sleet have disrupted the lives of more than 3.83 million people in five provincial areas in southern China since Saturday, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said Wednesday.
As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, the freezing weather had left one person dead and forced the evacuation of about 58,000 residents in Jiangxi, Hunan, Chongqing, Sichuan and Guizhou, a ministry statement posted online said.
More than 1,200 houses have collapsed and another 6,600 houses have been damaged.
The sleet and freezing weather has damaged about 142,400 hectares of crops.
Economic losses are estimated at 1.35 billion yuan (about 204 million U.S. dollars).
The ministry has ordered local civil affairs offices to take measures to minimize losses.
Relief efforts should prioritize people stranded on icy highways and railways, the statement said.
Relief workers should deliver supplies including food, water, blankets, clothes and quilts to the disaster-affected people as soon as possible, to "ensure no one suffers from cold or hunger," the statement said.
The ministry has prepared 30,000 quilts and 30,000 cotton-padded coats for the evacuated residents in Hunan Province and 50,000 quilts and 50,000 cotton-padded coats for those in Guizhou Province.
The National Meteorological Center (NMC) said Wednesday the freezing weather is likely to continue for at least another week.
The recent inclement weather has reminded people of the freezing winter of 2008, which cut traffic, damaged power generation facilities, and disrupted people's lives.
But experts said the country is unlikely to suffer something similar this winter.
"Though the cold front is strong, moisture is inadequate this year, which reduces the possibility of a widespread and continuous freeze like in 2008," said Chen Lijuan, senior engineer with the National Climate Center under the China Meteorological Administration.
NMC weather forecaster Yang Minggui said the accumulation of snow in some northern parts of southern China this year is about 20 centimeters less than that in the same region in 2008.
Chen said southern regions will be affected by intermittent cold snaps.