Laos is bracing for another potentially devastating cold snap following one in January that brought a rare snowfall to the tropical nation and was blamed for the deaths of thousands of livestock and fish, government meteorologists said on Thursday.
The Lao Department of Meteorology and Hydrology predicted today that the western Houaphan and Xiengkhouang provinces and the central Xaisomboun province could see lows reaching four degrees Celsius over Feb. 5 to 8.
“The temperature will drop throughout the country, especially in the north and northeast, Xaysomboun and the areas of the plateaus,” weather forecasting and aeronautical meteorology division chief Vanhdy Douangmala, told RFA’s Lao Service. “Other parts of the country will also face cold weather.
Weather in the Vientiane is expected to be cloudy and cold, and a resident of the capital city told RFA that the temperature was already dropping.
Laos was hit with unusually cold weather and a rare snowfall on Jan. 24-25. The temperature in Houaphan province hit 1.5 degrees Celsius and was blamed for the deaths of more than 1000 cattle. The cold was also blamed for killing three tons of fish in ponds in Xiengkhouang province.
People bundle up
“From 24-25 January, it was so cold that people couldn’t go out,” the Vientiane resident said. “We just stayed home and sat in front of our stove. I have never seen it freeze like this before. I had to wear three sweaters and many retail shops were closed.”
The Lao government is campaigning to raise funds to aid rural people suffering the cold weather and is opening bank accounts for donations, according to information from the government office.
It is difficult to determine if the bitter cold set records in the secretive nation, but the average low temperature in Vientiane hovers around 16.5 degrees Celsius in January and 19 degrees in February.
Cold hits Asia
In Vietnam, authorities said more than 8900 cattle died during a cold snap that damaged 6000 hectares of rice paddy and more than 4600 hectares of vegetable plots.
Many parts of Asia have been hit with rare cold weather which is being blamed for more than 65 deaths, and disrupted transportation, according to the Associated Press.
Subfreezing temperatures in North Korea’s northern provinces this month caused water main pipes to freeze and burst, cutting off tap water to local residents, sources inside the country told RFA.
Meteorologists blame the intense cold on a polar vortex – the large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding both of the earth’s poles. While the vortex always exists near the poles it tends to weaken in summer and strengthens in winter. Many times during winter in the northern hemisphere, however, the polar vortex will expand, sending cold air southward with the jet stream.
(Reported by RFA's Lao Service. Translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.)