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Record cold hits Chinese capital

A foreigner dressed in a Santa Claus costume orders beer as he and others make their way to Tiananmen Square for SantaCon, an annual Santa Claus convention celebrating cheer, goodwill and fun, in Beijing December111, 2010. Police on Tiananmen Square, surprised by the large gathering of people wearing red, ordered the group to disperse and leave the square while also harassing foreign journalists, detaining one. Tiananmen Square was under tight security as the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony was held in Norway. UPI/Stephen Shaver
A foreigner dressed in a Santa Claus costume orders beer as he and others make their way to Tiananmen Square for SantaCon, an annual "Santa Claus convention celebrating cheer, goodwill and fun," in Beijing December111, 2010. Police on Tiananmen Square, surprised by the large gathering of people wearing red, ordered the group to disperse and leave the square while also harassing foreign journalists, detaining one. Tiananmen Square was under tight security as the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony was held in Norway. UPI/Stephen Shaver | License Photo

BEIJING, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- A cold snap dropped temperatures in Beijing to a 10-year low Wednesday morning with a reading of just 12 degrees above zero, the city's weather bureau said.

The freezing weather made traffic congestion in the Chinese capital worse than usual after hikers and bicycle riders switched to cars, taxis and buses to get to work, China's official Xinhua news agency reported.

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"It was so cold my face went numb," one female commuter told a reporter.

She said she usually walked to work but ended up waiting 20 minutes in the cold for a bus.

Some private car owners risked fines under Beijing's three-year-old traffic management rules and drove to work instead of taking public transportation.

One mother said she was willing to risk a fine to drive her son to school because if he caught a cold the doctor bill would be much higher.

Many other parts of China were also suffering from record cold temperatures Wednesday.

Forecasters said the weather would start to improve Thursday.

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