SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Temperatures in China have plunged to their lowest in almost three decades, cold enough to freeze coastal waters and trap 1,000 ships in ice, official media said at the weekend.
Since late November the country has shivered at an average of minus 3.8 degrees Celsius, 1.3 degrees colder than the previous average, and the chilliest in 28 years, state news agency Xinhua said on Saturday, citing the China Meteorological Administration.
Bitter cold has even frozen the sea in Laizhou Bay on the coast of Shandong province in the east, stranding nearly 1,000 ships, the China Daily newspaper reported.
Zheng Dong, chief meteorologist at the Yantai Marine Environment Monitoring Center under the State Oceanic Administration, told the paper that the area under ice in Laizhou Bay was 291 square km this week.
Transport around the country has been severely disrupted.
Over 140 flights from the state capital airport in central Hunan province were delayed, while heavy snowfall forced the closure of some sections of the Beijing-Hong Kong-Macau Expressway, the China Daily said.
Temperatures in the northeast fell even further, reaching a 43-year low of minus 15.3 degrees Celsius, about 3.7 degrees below the previous recorded average.
One truck driver in southeastern Jiangxi province, caught in a 5 km (3.1 miles) queue caused by a pileup that happened after heavy snowfall, told China Daily the snow and extreme cold had caught him unawares.
"I didn't expect such a situation, so I've brought no warm coats or food. All I can do now is wait," trucker Yao Xuefeng told the paper.
Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Daniel Magnowski