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In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, visitors pose for a photo with the Forbidden City in the background at Jingshan Park following a snowfall in Beijing, on February 21, 2024. Image Credit: AP

BEIJING: Authorities in Beijing shut some highways on Wednesday after heavier-than-expected snowfall hit the Chinese capital, part of a cold spell sweeping many parts of the country this week.

With freezing rain and snow expected to last until Monday, officials boosted public transport arrangements in the sprawling city of nearly 22 million and shut eight highways, state broadcaster CCTV said.

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Also. heavy snow has blanketed northern and central China, disrupting traffic and forcing schools to cancel classes.

Flights and intercity train traffic on which much of China’s commuters rely were delayed or cancelled on Wednesday. Authorities in the provinces of Hebei, Henan and Shandong have issued warnings of travel hazards and other cold weather dangers.

Tens of thousands of workers with brooms and shovels have been deployed, assisted by snow plows in the hardest-hit regions.

Mountainous areas were still receiving snowfall, though it had stopped in urban areas.

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Image Credit: AFP

“I feel like the few days after the snow are a bit inconvenient because the road is kind of slippery and drivers are not that considerate,” said Beijing resident Kylie Chen.

Although she liked seeing the snow, it complicated her work commute, as she had to walk on sludgy roads, the 23-year-old added.

Tuesday evening’s snowfall lasted longer and was heavier than forecast after a confluence of humid air currents from the south and a cold mass of air moving slowly eastward, an observatory official told the Beijing Daily newspaper.

With flexible work hours offered by some employers, some people could spend more time taking in the scenery, said another Beijing resident, Li Qiuhao.

Image Credit: AP

“(The company) allows us to choose our work time more freely,” the 31-year-old added. “It means that we can avoid some commuting problems and traffic problems.” The bad weather forced the closure of almost 200 stretches of road nationwide, CCTV said.

The National Meteorological Center is predicting subzero temperatures in the coming week for numerous areas.

No fatalities from the latest cold wave have been reported.