Tourists die on Great Wall, freak snowstorm hits Beijing

Tourists die on Great Wall, freak snowstorm hits Beijing

Travel delays ahead of the Communist Party's 18th Congress as the capital is ravaged by unusually cold weather
Some commuters were trapped for over 22 hours on the Badaling Expressway.

At least two tourists have died while flights and road travel were disrupted in Beijing this past weekend after a freak snowstorm hit the Chinese capital and surrounding areas.

The deaths of two Japanese tourists occurred in northern Hebei province, local media reported. They had been stranded on an unrestored section of the Great Wall.

The unusually early cold weather arrived ahead of the Chinese Communist Party's 18th National Congress, slated to start November 8.

The municipal government has put some 60,000 cleaners on stand-by to clear snow on the road in order to ensure a smooth opening of the party congress, according to Hong Kong's Ming Pao Daily.

Some 58 millimeters of precipitation were recorded in central Beijing between Saturday and Sunday morning, according to Xinhua. It is the highest recording over a 24-hour period ever  for the city between November and March since 1951.

Snowfall is not usually expected in Beijing until the end of November.

An orange blizzard alert was hoisted on Saturday night in central Beijing, while several northwestern areas of the municipality saw a red alert -- the highest level. 

By Sunday morning, 23 flights had been canceled and five more had been delayed at Beijing Capital International Airport. Parts of the city's subway service were also disrupted.

Some 700 cars were stranded for over 22 hours on the Badaling Expressway, which is part of the Beijing-Tibet Highway, according to Xinhua (in Chinese only). Some 2,000 people were evacuated by the paramilitary police.

Beijing Meteorological Bureau (Chinese only) predicts the weather will be milder in the coming days. There was no precipitation forecast today and possible snowfall only on Friday.