Northeast China sees first major blizzard this season and forecasters warn of record snowfall

From the Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — Heavy snow blanketed swaths of northeastern China on Monday, shutting schools and halting transportation in the country’s first substantial snowstorm of the season.

Major highways in the city of Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province, were closed and flights canceled, China’s state broadcaster CCTV said. Grade school classes were canceled Monday in parts of Heilongjiang as well as neighboring Liaoning and Inner Mongolia provinces.

A gymnasium in Heilongjiang partially collapsed trapping three people inside, CCTV reported late Monday, though the cause was unclear.

The National Meteorological Center said that the snowfall is likely to “break through historical records” for the same period. Heavy snowstorms were expected to continue in parts of Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning provinces, with the depth reaching 20 centimeters (8 inches) in some places.

CCTV footage showed trucks stranded bumper to bumper, stretching 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) outside Harbin.

China’s weather authorities issued an orange alert through Tuesday, the second highest on a scale of four.

Late Monday evening, CCTV said that a section of a two-story gymnasium had collapsed in Jiamusi city in Heilongjiang. The broadcaster said three people were trapped and that rescue work was ongoing.

Video that circulated online showed firefighters and rescue workers at a site covered by snow and rubble. There were no official statements on the incident.