Freak weather conditions in northern China during the last week of February are being held responsible for widespread power outages and the shutdown of several major industrial concerns. The outages were being blamed on fog, the worst for 50 years, which paralysed Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning and caused damage in many other cities.

During the crisis, 70 per cent of the power in Shenyang was cut, resulting in a total blackout in the industrial district of the city. Hebei province was also affected, as were some parts of Henan province, while the main rail link between Beijing and Guangzhou was disrupted.

According to official statements, the fog was able to penetrate insulation of high tension cables, causing arcing. Some power station equipment exploded and burnt out cables were common. Technicians were forced to watch, helpless, as fireballs cavorted along high tension transmission lines. While the fog itself lasted from morning until mid afternoon, disruption continued for much longer, particularly in rural areas.