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China: Snow, sandstorm wreak havoc in Xinjiang

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Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China's far west suffered the dual attack of snow and sandstorm, which caused chaos on the road and in the air, local authorities said Saturday.

While the regional capital Urumqi and the northern prefectures of Ili, Altay and Tacheng suffered snow or sleet, a severe sandstorm hit at least four prefectures in southern Xinjiang, the regional weather bureau said in a press release.

At least two avalanches were reported Saturday in the Ili River Valley of northern Xinjiang, one in a village of Yining County and the other, on a national highway.

The accidents buried about 200 sheep, toppled two houses and cut off road traffic. No casualties were caused because the local residents had been evacuated during last week's heavy snow, the government of Ili said.

The Ili River Valley received a record volume of snowfall from October to March. Precipitation in the past six weeks alone was 262 percent as much as that of previous years.

As of Saturday, 54,000 square km of the 56,000-square-km Ili Prefecture was covered with snow, the local weather bureau said.

Authorities had warned residents to be on guard against spring flood, which would be hazardous when the temperature climbs.

In sharp contrast to the snowfall, a new round of sandstorm attacked southern Xinjiang Saturday. The sandstorm swirled at the heel of a previous yellow dust attack that moved down to the Beijing-centered north China region Friday night.

As of 6 p.m., at least 14 flights were postponed by the sandstorm, all regional flights linking Urumqi with Hotan, Aksu, Kashi and Bayingolin, the airport authority in Urumqi said.