Temperatures across China are forecast to plunge this weekend, as parts of the country reel from widespread disruptions caused by wintry conditions and heavy rains, including a subway collision in Beijing that left hundreds of commuters hospitalized.
The cold snap comes after an abnormally warm fall, when the country logged its warmest October in decades. The average high temperature in the capital plummeted to about 15 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 9 degrees Celsius) on Saturday after hovering at around 50 degrees last week.
Across China, meteorologists issued low temperature and strong wind warnings on Saturday, saying that a “strong cold wave” was spreading icy winds nationwide that were expected to continue into next week. In some parts of China, temperatures could drop to historical lows, according to the China Meteorological Administration. And colder-than-average conditions are expected until the end of the year in northern China, forecasters said.
President Xi Jinping on Friday urged “all-out efforts” to prevent and respond to emergencies related to the cold and snow, according to the Communist Party’s newspaper, People’s Daily. He added that heavy rain and snow had strained the country’s power supply and transportation network and ordered officials to increase the supply of coal, electricity, oil and gas.
Harsh wintry conditions struck northern China earlier last week, with the season’s first snow falling over the weekend on Sunday. Two days later, meteorologists in Beijing issued a blizzard warning. Train and bus routes were suspended across the city. On Wednesday, most schools moved to remote learning.
The next day, two subway trains crashed during the evening rush hour, leaving 515 people hospitalized, including 102 with broken bones, Beijing’s transport authority said on Friday. Slippery tracks had forced a train to make an emergency stop, leading to a collision with another train behind it.
Some users on Chinese social media reacted with shock over the number of injuries.
“We express our sincere condolences and deep apologies to the passengers who were stranded, frightened and injured in this accident,” the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport said in a statement. “We will improve extreme weather operations and emergency response plans to ensure the safety of urban operations.”
After the crash, all trains on the Changping line, where the collision took place, ran at slower speeds to navigate hazardous conditions, according to China Daily, a state-run newspaper. The authorities urged caution over icy roads across the country.
Elsewhere in the country, cold temperatures and strong winds on Saturday forced the authorities to suspend dozens of passenger ferry routes in the southeastern coastal province of Guangdong. South Korea and parts of Japan are expected to experience a similarly drastic plunge in temperatures this weekend.