Swimmers take icy plunge at China snow festival

HARBIN, China, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Ignoring sub-zero temperatures and biting Siberian winds, 400 swimmers plunged into an icy river in China's northern city of Harbin on Thursday, the first day of the city's annual ice and snow festival.

Winter swimming, as it is known in China, is enjoyed mainly by middle-aged and elderly people who believe it benefits their health. Thursday's event saw swimmers from across China and abroad compete in an icy pool cut into the frozen Songhua river.

"Very exciting and pretty happy. My body feels super cool," said Yu Dongbo, a 51-year-old visitor from the neighboring northern city of Daqing.

The 2017 Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival kicks off on Thursday and runs to the end of February. (Reporting by Xihao Jiang, writing by Doris Liu, editing by Darren Schuettler)