China hit by record-breaking cold snap, forecasts predict lows of -41 Celcius

Beijing - Much of China shivered Saturday as a teeth-chattering cold snap broke decades-old records and snow fell in some parts for the first time in years, cancelling flights and forcing many indoors.

An orange alert was issued across the country as forecasts predicted eye-watering lows of -41 Celsius in some parts, the National Meteorological Center (NMC) said.

Orange is the second most severe cold weather warning on China's four-tier scale, and forecasters said 30-year records were on course to be shattered in several parts of the country over the weekend.

The north braced for the worst, with the temperatures predicted to plummet to -41 C in Genhe in Inner Mongolia. Neighbouring Mohe in Heilongjiang province didn't fare much better with the mercury expected to dip to -39 C.

The NMC said temperatures would not peak above the freezing mark in most parts of the country, with the exception of a few spots in the south, and state-run CCTV television urged people to stay inside to avoid the frigid weather.

More than 100 flights were cancelled in the southeast metropolis of Chongqing as snow blanketed the city for the first time in 20 years, airport authorities told AFP.

Snow dumped down in several other regions where the white stuff is scarcely seen, according to CCTV citing weather officials.

Bright sunshine bathed the capital Beijing where skies were clear blue, but the bright conditions brought little respite as thermometers dipped to -17°C in the morning. In the mountainous areas on the outskirts of the city, temperatures plummeted to an eye-watering -29.8 C.

Even the normally tropical beaches on the southern island of Hainan were not spared, with temperatures clocking in at a cool 13 C, according to state-run CRI radio.

Conditions are expected to return to slightly warmer seasonal norms from Tuesday in the north and by the end of next week in the south, CCTV said.