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China's snowstorms claim 129 lives

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MOSCOW, March 3 (RIA Novosti) - China's worst snowstorms in 50 years have killed a total of 129 people so far this winter, Xinhua news agency reported, citing official data.

The agency quoted the Ministry of Civil Affairs as saying the extreme weather has cost the country's economy $21 billion.

Snow and cold weather in China have affected 70 million people in 20 provinces, including Anhui, Jiangxi, Hubei and Hunan in central, southern and eastern China.

About 1.66 million people are reported to have been evacuated from the blizzard-hit areas and over 485,000 buildings have collapsed.

Earlier the Ministry of Agriculture said crops and farmland had been particularly hard-hit with 24.4 million hectares of agricultural land and 18.6 million hectares of forest affected. About 14.4 million poultry have died from the cold, as well as over 870,000 pigs, 450,000 sheep and 85,000 cattle.

The Ministry of Civil Affaires said around 1.7 million hectares of farmland will produce no crops in 2008.

Local weather forecasters said more snow was expected across China in the coming days.

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