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    China Storms Kill 129, Economic Loss at $21 Billion (Update2)

    By Wing-Gar Cheng

    Feb. 23 (Bloomberg) -- China's worst snowstorms in five decades caused 151.7 billion yuan ($21 billion) in direct economic losses and killed 129 people, with four still missing.

    Blizzards, ice and freezing temperatures since January have forced the evacuation of 1.66 million people and collapsed 485,000 houses, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing Vice Minister of Civil Affairs Li Liguo.

    The worst snowstorms since 1954 swept across China's southern provinces of Guangdong, Hunan, Guizhou and Jiangxi, where sub-zero temperatures are rare, shutting rail, road and air routes. China's inflation accelerated in January as the snowstorms disrupted food supplies.

    ``The effects of the snowstorms on prices are still trickling down into the economy,'' Wang Tao, head of Greater China economics and strategy at Bank of America Corp. in Beijing, said in a telephone interview today. ``The storms disrupted supplies of food and products. Inflation numbers may rise for February and March.''

    The storms affected 178 million Chinese mu (11.9 million hectares, 29.4 million acres) of farmland, Li was cited as saying. They also caused losses of 18 billion yuan to the country's power grids, Liu Baohua, director of the markets department at the State Electricity Regulatory Commission, said today at a conference in Beijing.

    ``The country aims to restore all electricity distribution lines by April,'' Liu said.

    Farmer Subsidies

    China will increase subsidies to grain farmers by 20.6 billion yuan this year to cover rising costs after the snowstorms drove up prices of fuel and FERTILIZERS, the Ministry of Finance said Feb. 21.

    The government will give grain farmers 48.2 billion yuan in direct subsidies this year, 75 percent more than in 2008, to help them cope with higher expenses. It also granted grain farmers 15.1 billion yuan of other subsidies, the ministry said.

    Temperatures may drop as low as 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit) across the country in the next four days, with rains and strong winds forecast in the eastern and southern regions, the China Meteorological Administration said today in a statement.

    To contact the reporter on this story: Wing-Gar Cheng in Beijing at [email protected] .

    Last Updated: February 23, 2008 03:24 EST
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