(CNN) -- Heavy snow in northern and central China has killed 21 people since Monday, the country's Ministry of Civil Affairs said Friday, according to state-run media.
Xinhua news agency said the ministry did not provide the causes of the deaths, except to note that two school canteens had collapsed in Hebei and Henan provinces since Wednesday, killing four children.
The snow began to fall Monday on northern and central Chinese provinces, including Hebei, Shanxi, Henan, Shandong, Hubei and Shaanxi, and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Xinhua reported.
More than 9,000 buildings have collapsed since then, Xinhua said. Citing the ministry, it said the snow has caused an estimated 4.5 billion yuan (nearly $660 million) in damages.
The ministry said about 159,000 people have been evacuated from their homes or stranded vehicles, Xinhua reported.
Civil Affairs Minister Li Xueju has ordered local authorities to provide food, water and clothing to those who are still stranded, "and to make proper arrangements for people who lost their homes in the snow to get through the winter," Xinhua reported.
It said the Civil Affairs Ministry and the Ministry of Finance have allocated 20 million yuan (about $3 million) from their central budgets to Shanxi and Hebei provinces to help move those affected by the snow and to help them build houses.
Heavy snow has also fallen on Beijing, but no deaths have been reported there, Xinhua said.