China port faces worst ice threat in 30 years

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BEIJING (AP) — A northern China port that is one of the world’s largest was facing the worst ice conditions in 30 years Saturday, and icebreaking ships were working to keep the path to it open.

Some ships were having trouble reaching the port at Tianjin — the port for China’s capital, Beijing, and the third largest in the country, China Central Television said. Footage showed ships on the Bohai Gulf working to keep shipping lanes open.

About 40 people had already been saved from ships in danger from the ice, the state-run Xinhua News Agency cited maritime officials as saying.

The region has been hit by its worst winter weather in decades over the past week, including Beijing’s coldest morning in almost 40 years and its biggest snowfall since 1951.

Temperatures over the next week in Beijing are forecast to remain below freezing.

The sea ice along the coast of the Bohai Gulf was the most serious in 30 years, China National Radio reported Saturday afternoon.

China’s transport minister, Li Shenglin, urged authorities to work to prevent accidents, Xinhua reported.

In 2008, the Tianjin port was among the top 15 in the world in container handling, according to the Web site of its operator, Tianjin Port Development Holdings Ltd. The port 60 miles southeast of Beijing has a sprawling export zone designed to spur the region’s growth.

The past week of bitter cold already has hit China’s power companies, with officials ordering rotating shutdowns of hundreds of factories in central provinces to ensure sufficient power to heat homes.