Losses from the recent prolonged, heavy snowfall in numerous districts of northern mountainous Lao Cai province amount to nearly 10 billion VND (4.7 million USD), according to local official.

Sa Pa resort town is the hardest hit with a loss of up to 5 billion VND, said Ma Quang Trung, Director of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Rare heavy snow damaged large areas of crops while blocking traffic on many roads in the town.
According to the Office of Agriculture and Rural Development of Sa Pa, more than 100 hectares of chayote and another 100 hectares of flowers were buried under snow.

Thick ice also blocked about 10 kilometres of Highway 4D linking Lao Cai and Lai Chau provinces. Efforts have been made by local authorities to clear the roads.

Freezing temperatures also forced more than 8,500 pre-school and primary school students to cease their schooling.

Students in 63 schools in Sa Pa, including 20 nurseries, 22 primary and 21 secondary schools, were allowed to stay at home on December 16 and 17.

More than 500 blankets and many presents have been sent to the students to help ease their difficulties, the office said.

On December 16, temperatures plunged to below 5 degrees Celsius across the whole of Lao Cai province. Particularly, the mercury dropped to minus 3 degrees Celsius in Sa Pa, coupled with rain and snow.

Earlier on December 15, heavy snow and a thick layer of ice covered O Quy Ho Pass in Sa Pa, while the temperature was recorded at minus 1 degree Celsius.

This type of weather, while not unheard-of, occasionally occurs in the highest northern mountains during winter.

The snowfall attracted tourists to Sa Pa, causing congestion from the provincial capital of Lao Cai to the resort town.

From the height of 1,500m above sea level, icy sheets were about 2.5 cm thick.-VNA