BEIJING (AFP) - Thousands of angry passengers were stranded after heavy fog delayed flights at a Chinese airport early on Saturday, as the country was shivered through its coldest weather in almost three decades.

Ten thousand passengers were stuck in Changshui International Airport in the southern Chinese city of Kunming on Saturday morning after thick fog grounded more than 280 flights, state-run Xinhua news agency said.

Angry passengers stranded at the airport for more than a day struggled with airline staff, damaging computer equipment belonging to an airline, while police broke up scuffles, a photographer present at the scene late on Friday told AFP.

“The passengers were really furious, they kept going to the service desk to ask for information, but didn’t get any answers,” the photographer said.

Flights at the airport resumed on Saturday afternoon after the fog lifted, Xinhua said.

China is suffering its coldest winter for 28 years, the news agency on Saturday quoted China’s Meteorological Administration as saying.

Temperatures recorded over the country since November have averaged minus 3.8 degrees Celsius (25 degrees Fahrenheit), while northeast China saw average temperatures of minus 15.3 degrees Celsius, its coldest winter for 43 years. Bitter cold has even frozen the sea in Laizhou Bay on the coast of Shandong province in the east, stranding nearly 1,000 ships, the China Daily newspaper reported.

Zheng Dong, chief meteorologist at the Yantai Marine Environment Monitoring Centre under the State Oceanic Administration, told the paper that the area under ice in Laizhou Bay was 291 square km this week.

Transport around the country has been severely disrupted. Over 140 flights from the state capital airport in central Hunan province were delayed, while heavy snowfall forced the closure of some sections of the Beijing-Hong Kong-Macau Expressway, the China Daily said.

Temperatures in the northeast fell even further, reaching a 43-year low of minus 15.3 degrees Celsius, about 3.7 degrees below the previous recorded average.

One truck driver in southeastern Jiangxi province, caught in a 5 km (3.1 miles) queue caused by a pileup that happened after heavy snowfall, told China Daily the snow and extreme cold had caught him unawares. “I didn’t expect such a situation, so I’ve brought no warm coats or food. All I can do now is wait,” trucker Yao Xuefeng told the paper.

An annual Ice and Snow Festival in the northeastern city of Harbin, famous for its enormous ice-sculptures, is scheduled to open today, as temperatures in the city fall below minus 24 degrees Celsius.

Temperatures in northern China are expected to pick up next week, although parts of south China will continue to experience snow, Xinhua reported.