Mass evacuations as China's south battles 'big freeze'

Frozen plants on highway in Guiyang, Guizhou province 3 January 2011. Freezing rain and unusually low temperatures are predicted to continue for several days

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Freezing temperatures in south-western China have forced the evacuation of 58,000 people from their homes, according to the Chinese authorities.

Ice and snow have closed roads, leaving thousands of motorists stranded.

Officials said the roofs of more than 1,000 homes in five provinces have collapsed because of the bad weather.

Those living in mountainous areas have been hardest hit - with tens of thousands being evacuated.

The authorities say that snow and ice across the region has damaged almost 300,000 acres of crops - with losses of nearly $200m (£129m).

Across south-western China, highways and other transport networks continue to be affected by the cold weather.

In Guizhou province icy conditions have closed roads, leaving thousands of motorists stranded.

Forecasts say that the freezing conditions are set to last until Friday.

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