Ice and snow sculptures carved by nearly 10,000 artists in the city of Harbin have melted during a sudden warm spell, forcing the earliest closure of China’s biggest winter festival.

Daytime temperatures have poked above freezing in northern China’s warmest week this winter, prompting officials to close Monday, more than 10 days ahead of schedule.

“Of course, we do have a sense of crisis,” a park official said, adding that it was closed for safety reasons because the sculptures began to melt.

The winter park in Harbin, a northeastern city known for its bitterly cold weather, had attracted more than 1 million visitors since it opened December 23.

Some visitors who bought tickets to admire the ice versions of two Italian landmarks — the Colosseum in Rome and the Milan Cathedral — were disappointed by the early closure. Last year, the park shut March 10.

“Why didn’t you inform us in advance,” a tourist wrote in a post on Weibo, a Twitter-like blog popular in China. “I’ve booked my train ticket and hotel, and now you are closed.”

Park tickets have been refunded, the park official said.

The Harbin winter festival has drawn millions of visitors from around the world since it began in the early 1980s. It brings a lot of money to Harbin, a landlocked city in the province of Heilongjiang. The Chinese festival is one of the world’s four largest ice and snow festivals, along with Japan’s Sapporo Snow Festival, Canada’s Quebec City winter carnival and Norway’s Ski Festival.

— Reuters