The lives of residents in northern mountainous provinces have been disrupted due to the continuous heavy snowfall.

In Lao Cai province alone, an unusual snowfall early this week caused an estimated loss of around 10 billion VND (470,000 USD), said Director of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Ma Van Trung.

Rare heavy snows damaged nearly 900ha of vegetables, while 60 buffaloes and cows died due to frost, he said.

Meanwhile, 3,000 sq.m of net housing covering orchids and tomatoes in Sa Pa district were destroyed, and a house was damaged by falling soil and rocks.

Giang Seo Ga, a resident in Sa Pa district, said the snow fell too quickly and continued for a long time, while families had not planned to bring their cattle to lower areas to avoid cold weather and had not yet stored feed for them.

"It is now too late. I have lost some buffaloes used for breeding purposes," he said.

Snow also breached an electricity grid along Highway 4D, causing widespread electricity disruptions in some districts and estimated losses of 2 billion VND (94,760 USD).

Unusual snowfalls have also attracted some 5,000 sightseers to Sa Pa from every corner of the country, causing traffic congestion over the past few days. Thick ice also blocked a 10km section of Highway 4D linking Lao Cai and Lai Chau provinces, though traffic resumed on December 18.

Freezing temperatures also forced tens of thousands of pre-school and primary school students in Lao Cai and Lai Chau to stay home.

Director Trung said authorities will provide financial aid for local people to recover from damage caused by the snow and guide them to adopt measures to protect cattle against cold weather.

Also, as cold temperatures dropped to under 10 degrees Celsius in the northern region, many children and elderly residents were hospitalised due to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases in recent days, doctors said.

The number of children hospitalised with respiratory problems caused by the cold weather has increased, according to Nguyen Tien Dung, chief of the Hanoi-based Bach Mai Hospital's Pediatric Department.

"Bach Mai Hospital's Pediatric Ward has been receiving 200-300 children every day, with such symptoms as coughs and high fevers, which is 20 percent higher than on normal days," he said.

A lack of knowledge by parents, as many parents thought their children were suffering from common illnesses, caused them to be late in seeking treatment for their children, he added.

Meanwhile, the extreme cold has also sent hundreds of elderly people with pulmonary problems to hospitals, said Nguyen Trung Anh, a doctor at the National Geriatric Hospital.

The hospital reported receiving 300-400 elderly patients, which was two to three times higher than normal. P roblems reported by elderly residents included respiratory, blood pressure and cardiovascular issues.

Also, doctors warned the elderly not to go out at night or in the early morning during the cold weather and to continue their indoor exercises.

They also warned parents that if their children have symptoms, such as coughs, high fevers, or quickened breathing, they should bring their children to a heathcare centre for check-ups and treatment.

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

Snowfall also started to cover Hoang Lien pass in Lai Chau province beginning December 14.

The temperature will continue dropping to below 2 degrees Celsius in northern mountainous provinces in the next few days, coupled with hoarfrost, according to the National Hydro-meteorological Forecast Centre.-VNA