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Voices from snow-plagued regions of China
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09:05, February 05, 2008

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It has been three weeks since snow-hit China's central, southern and eastern regions, cutting power supply, paralyzing traffic and causing scores of deaths.

While the world cast its eyes to China, people living in the snow-plagued areas are living a life they have rarely, if ever, experienced.

"To move means hope"

The driver from north China's Hebei province was contented. Stranded on the Beijing-Zhuhai expressway since Jan. 25, Cai Yuxi said he once didn't move an inch for a whole day.

"Now that I could have a move every ten minutes or half an hour," he said, "although the speed is really too low, to move means hope after all. The governments are not working in vain."

The Beijing-Zhuhai Expressway, a north-south trunk road, was fully reopened Monday morning, and the last 6,000 vehicles trapped by snow were relieved by 9:00 a.m. after days of hard work by 1,200 soldiers and armed police.

However, traffic flow was slow on the highway, and many sections were still partially blocked.

Yao Chang, a 50-year-old traffic policeman, has been working for 15 days in a stretch. Together with 16 colleagues, he was in charge of a 24-kilometer section.

Several police vehicles parking by the road were their temporary "home", where they could rest for about three hours a day.

Their dinners were instant noodles and biscuits.

"Guiding the vehicles on the road is no easy task, as many driver of trucks or buses were reluctant to detour," he said, "we have to persuade them one by one. After a days of work, we all become numb and slow."

"Our only hope," he said, "is that drivers could be more patient and abide by rules, so that every one could pass more quickly."

"I haven't suffered from such cold for nearly 50 years"

"This is not my first time repairing electricity transmission lines in the wilderness, but it is definitely the first time to do so in such harsh weather," said 49-year-old Tu Guangfa, manager with the power transmission and substation engineering company of Hubei in central China.

The Xianning-Yunmeng line transmits power from the Three Gorgeson the Yangtze River to Jiangxi Province. It was severed on Jan. 23 as two towers were toppled by ice and snow.

The number of collapsed pylons grew to seven, while 10 others were damaged, affecting 50 kilometers of electricity line.

"Our repair team has grown to 325 people, and we live in a primary school and the houses of some farmers," Tu said.

Snow in southern China, unlike that in the north, is more sleet, according to Tu, which makes the mountain paths too slippery to take.

"A journey which normally took half an hour now becomes a two-hour odyssey," he said, "after we reach the site, our clothes are all wet. I haven't suffered from such cold for nearly 50 years."

According to sources with the State Grid Corporation of China, 712,000 person times were dispatched to repair some 4,700 transmission lines, helping more than 1,000 households restore power supply.

However, there are still 32 500 KV power supply lines crippled in central China and 20 in the eastern part.

"My wife is wondering where to take a shower"

Huang Junwen, 32, had lived in darkness since Jan. 24 in Chenzhou, a city of four million in Hunan, the worst-hit region.

"By chance I found two storage batteries from a candy-making machine, so we can have light after over a week," he said.

Without electricity, Huang's life was totally changed.

No heat, no TV program, even the mobile phones couldn't be used.

"My wife works in the No. 4 hospital of Chenzhou so that we could have the mobile phones re-charged there," he recalled, "but on Jan. 27, electricity in the hospital was cut."

Many banks were closed; even the ATM machines couldn't be used due to power shortage.

Vegetable prices were rising. Cucumber was ten yuan a kilogram, while the cabbage which once sold at about one yuan rose to four yuan.

Candle prices skyrocketed too. A candle worth 0.2 yuan normally is now sold at 1.5 yuan, but Huang still bought ten.

Most of the hotels were closed, except for a few that could generate electricity themselves. But the cost was astonishing--at least 500 yuan a night.

"Many rich people would go there to recharge their mobile phones and take showers," Huang said, adding that he went there once on Jan. 30, bringing his parents, his in-laws, his wife and brother for a bath.

"Now my wife is nagging again about where she can take a shower," he sighed.

Electricity has been partially restored in Chenzhou.

"Although we are busy maintaining some damaged utility poles, more have been falling under the weight of the snow and ice. This has made power resumption still more difficult," said Xu Yun, a Hunan Provincial Power Company official.

Source: Xinhua

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