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China's pre-holiday travel peak at standstill, as bad weather persists
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07:43, January 28, 2008

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· Yearender 2008
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Chinese travelers continued to struggle with the transport havoc caused by bad weather on Sunday as snow and sleet in central, eastern and southern regions threaten to paralyze air, rail and highway traffic.

The Spring Festival, the most important Chinese holiday, is only 10 days away and millions of passengers are struggling to make the once-a-year trip home.

Almost 150,000 passengers were stranded at Guangzhou Railway Station on Saturday night after a power failure caused by snow, ice and sleet stopped more than 136 trains in Hunan Province on the trunk line between Beijing and Guangzhou.

Though the power supply resumed at 4:00 p.m. Saturday, 50 trains remain stranded between Hengyang City in Hunan and Guangzhou provinces.

An official with Guangzhou railway authorities said the number of stranded passengers in Guangzhou City alone could hit 600,000 on Monday if the situation continued.

"Last night, 100,000 passengers packed the square in front of the railway station in heavy rain; another 50,000 crouched inside the building or under nearby crossovers," said an official in Yuexiu district of Guangzhou.

He said the authorities were trying to find shelter for the passengers at nearby schools, conference halls and other public facilities.

The Ministry of Railways has instructed 63 trains to bypass then on-operational section and take different routes via the Beijing-Kowloon Railway Line or Shanghai-Kunming Railway Line.

The ministry also dispatched 35 trains from Beijing, Wuhan and Nanchang cities to help divert the stranded passengers.

Road traffic between Hunan and Guangdong provinces has also ground to a halt. Traffic was still at a standstill on Sunday on the southern section of the expressway linking Beijing with ZhuhaiCity in Guangdong Province, which was blocked by bad weather a week ago and at least 60,000 people in 20,000 vehicles were stranded.

Guangdong authorities sent 15 million text messages warning drivers not to take highways leading north.

Several regional airports were shut by the weather, including the one at Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province.

Hunan's Huanghua Airport has been closed since Friday in the worst cold snap in a decade. Authorities said there was no chance of reopening the airport before 10:00 am on Monday.

Mountainous Guizhou province in the southwest China has seen five deaths, 1,631 collapsed homes and widespread blackouts.

In central China's Hunan Province, one of the worst hit area, seven people have died and snow is affecting the lives of 25.22 million people in 14 cities and 112 counties across the province.

The power company workers in Hunan Province, who were removing ice from a 50-meter tall tower on Saturday afternoon, died when the equipment collapsed.

In Jiangxi Province, 5.5 million people were affected by sleet and a record low average temperature of 2.6 degrees Celsius, compared with six degrees normally for the time of year.

Ice runs on the Ili River, in Xinjiang in the far west, inundated 23 homes and large areas of pasture and forests over the past week.

The Central Meteorological Station said the chaotic weather was likely to continue for a week, especially in the southern, northwestern and central regions.

"There hasn't been any rise in temperatures or any room for optimism," said Yang Guiming, the chief weatherman.

Yang said the cold spell had been "unprecedentedly long". The rain and snow started in many parts of China on Jan. 10 and have lasted for two weeks.

Source: Xinhua

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