Thousands stuck in Kunming airport as China freezes

BEIJING (AFP) - Thousands of angry passengers were stranded after heavy fog delayed flights at a Chinese airport today, as the country was shivered through its coldest weather in almost three decades.

Ten thousand passengers were stuck in Changshui International Airport in the southern Chinese city of Kunming this morning after thick fog grounded more than 280 flights, state-run Xinhua news agency said.

Angry passengers stranded at the airport for more than a day struggled with airline staff, damaging computer equipment belonging to an airline, while police broke up scuffles, according to a photographer present at the scene late on Friday.

"The passengers were really furious, they kept going to the service desk to ask for information, but didn't get any answers," the photographer said.

Flights at the airport resumed in the afternoon after the fog lifted, Xinhua said.

China is suffering its coldest winter for 28 years, the news agency quoted China's Meteorological Administration as saying.

Temperatures recorded over the country since November have averaged minus 3.8 deg C, while north-east China saw average temperatures of minus 15.3 deg C, its coldest winter for 43 years.

Plunging temperatures trapped around 1,000 ships in sea ice off eastern China's Shandong province this week, Xinhua reported, while snowfall delayed more than 140 flights in Beijing last month, the China Daily said.

An annual Ice and Snow Festival in the north-eastern city of Harbin, famous for its enormous ice-sculptures, is scheduled to open today, as temperatures in the city fall below minus 24 deg C.

Temperatures in northern China are expected to pick up next week, although parts of south China will continue to experience snow, Xinhua reported.