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Millions can not return native home for festive gatherings
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12:43, February 06, 2008

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Millions of Chinese had to say "sorry" to their beloved ones on Wednesday as the whole nation was greeting the Lunar New Year's Eve, because they have been forced to give up plans to return native home for festive gatherings due to the coldest winter in 50 years.

Meanwhile, millions of others who have luckily bought tickets were catching time and rushing home by plane, train and coach, or waiting for departure at airports, railway stations and bus depots following transport resumption. They were eager to get home sooner and eat "nianyefan," or the evening dinner on Lunar New Year's Eve, with relatives -- a tradition cherished by Chinese for thousands of years.

Wednesday also marks the start of the nation's week-long holiday of the Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, the most important festival for family gatherings in China.

2008 is the Year of the Rat, according to the lunar calendar. The rat is the first of the 12-year cycle of 12 animals appearing in the Chinese zodiac, the ox second, and the pig last.

China has about 200 million out of the country's 1.3 billion population. For many of them, the Spring Festival holiday is the only chance to see their beloved family members all the year round.

But this year, their steps toward home were held back by freak winter weather featuring prolonged snow, rain and sleet since mid-January in China's eastern, central and southern regions, which downed power lines, covered roads with thick ice, brought trains, buses and planes to standstill and stranded millions of people.

Under such circumstances, migrant workers were advised by government to stay in cities where they work to reduce transport chaos.

More than 12 million migrant workers chose to stay put in southern Guangdong Province, which reports a total of about 30 million migrant workers, according to the Guangdong Provincial Department of Labor and Social Security.

In Shenzhen, neighboring Hong Kong, about 2 million migrant workers expressed willingness to stay, and in the financial center of Shanghai, about 120,000 migrant workers chose not to go home.

The snow havoc, the worst in five decades, and even in a century in few areas, has led to deaths, structural collapses, blackouts, accidents, transport problems and livestock and crop losses in 19 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

More than 100 million people have been affected, and at least 60 people have died in the freezing weather.

Source: Xinhua

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