Chinese cities are ready to ensure the warmth of every resident, from homeless vagrants to zoo animals, in face of what could be the coldest week in decades.
In Zhejiang Province in east China, where heavy snow began on Thursday, more than 8,900 temporary shelters have been opened for the homeless and citizens trapped by snow storms, the province's civil affairs department said, adding that street patrols are directing homeless people to nearby refuges and offering food and quilts to those who do not wish to go.
In one refuge in the Xingcheng Hotel in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang, the homeless were offered free meals, comfortable rooms and medical help.
Chen Jun, a civil affairs official, said the temporary shelters offer an alternative for homeless residents who are unwilling to move into formal facilities.
The province has distributed almost 300,000 quilts and 5,000 overcoats in door-to-door visits to needy families, nursing homes and welfare houses.
Hangzhou zoo has installed extra heating to tide its tropical animals over the unprecedented cold.
"Different animals have different needs -- bathroom heaters for birds, oil lamps for primates, and for elephants, we used a large fan heater," said Wang Hongbo, deputy director of the zoo.
China's national weather observatory said a strong cold front will bring a steep drop in temperatures starting Thursday night. Temperatures that are already well below zero in some areas could drop by 14 degrees Celsius.
Southern and eastern provinces like Anhui, Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong are forecast to see record lows, while Beijing may see temperatures as low as minus 17 degrees Celsius, the lowest in almost three decades, according to the National Meteorological Center (NMC).
Tourism authorities in Jiangxi Province said Thursday that several mountainous areas will be closed to tourists or enforce traffic restrictions. Jiangxi's coldest weather since 1992 is expected between January 23 and 26.
The central province of Hunan on Wednesday ordered all outdoor construction sites to halt work to prepare for a week of blizzards and freezing temperatures.
Schools in many places have been told to start their winter holiday a few days ahead of schedule, while education authorities in Hangzhou have allowed students to skip school.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) on Thursday issued a circular asking local governments to take special care of those in need and to set up temporary aid stations and refuges in areas where homeless people are likely to gather.
The south of China was hit by the worst blizzard in five decades in 2008, leading to 129 deaths, widespread traffic jams, blackouts and crop losses, though similar disasters are thought unlikely this year, as the cold period will be shorter.
(Xinhua News Agency January 21, 2016)