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China meteorological authority lifts severe weather alert
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11:34, February 07, 2008

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The China Meteorological Administration (CMA) on Wednesday took weather officials off severe alert status, as forecasts for rain and snow were downgraded for central, eastern and southern provinces.

The CMA lifted the level-three severe weather emergency plan, which requires weather offices to maintain 24-hour staffing, issue constant updates for forecasts, alerts and disaster warnings, and to warn and prepare the public.

The plan was initiated on Jan. 25 in units directly under the CMA and the Meteorological Bureau in 12 provinces including Guizhou, Yunnan, Hunan, Hubei, Henan, Anhui and Shaanxi.

The CMA's weather warnings fall into four levels according to their severity and emergency status. Level three is "relatively severe".

The transportation system was recovering after being paralyzed by three weeks of harsh weather. Stranded trains were on the move on Wednesday and some expressways and airports were back in action.

The Beijing-Zhuhai Expressway, a major north-south trunk road blocked for many days by snow, was fully reopened on Monday morning, although drivers were warned of traffic jams.

The last 6,000 vehicles that had been trapped by snow had been freed by 9:00 a.m. on Monday after days of hard work by 1,200 soldiers and the People's Armed Police, said the Ministry of Communications.

The army sent out vehicles, from tanks to armored cars, to clear the highways, while air force helicopters and transports lifted relief material such as candles and quilts to heavily-affected areas.

Power coal stockpiles have stopped shrinking and started to improve on a combination of heightened output and expedited rail transport.

As most of China is predicted to have clear weather for the Lunar New Year holiday, the country may get a breathing space to recover from the disaster.

With top leaders including Premier Wen Jiabao visiting the worst-hit areas, the government has urged officials to rise to the occasion as the disaster would test their will, resolution and ability to cope with crises.

"We have the faith," Wen told the country on Saturday on board a train in disaster-hit central Hunan Province.

Source: Xinhua

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