Snow strands thousands of rail passengers

08:17, January 05, 2010      

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More than 1,400 passengers, who were stranded in a valley in northern China in the extreme cold for 20 hours after their 15-carriage train was partially buried by snow late Sunday, were rescued Monday with no casualties reported.

Another 12 trains were also reportedly stranded by snow in Inner Mongolia, with thousands of passengers trapped and later rescued from the freezing temperatures as low as minus 34 degrees Celsius.

The train traveling from Harbin to Baotou was stopped at 6:48 pm Sunday when walls of snow whipped up by strong winds blocked and almost buried the train. Some 1,400 passengers inside the train were forced to spend Sunday night and most of Monday in their carriages before they were rescued at about 3 pm Monday.

The local public security and fire departments sent several rescue vehicles and fire engines with clothes, quilts, food and hot water to rescue the passengers and remove the snow. As many roads were also blocked, some officers had to climb mountains to bring food to the stranded passengers. No injuries were reported during the ordeal.

Another Harbin to Baotou train also became stranded in Wulanchabu on Sunday at 6 pm, with some 15 of the train's carriages covered by snow and more than 1,000 passengers trapped inside.

Seven carriages were towed back to local railway stations and more than 800 passengers were rescued by local police and firemen Monday.

The other eight carriages, with more than 200 passengers inside, were still trapped and were being rescued at press time.

A train from Hohhot to Tongliao also became stranded in Wulanchabu on Sunday at midday, and resumed its route around 6 pm Monday.

Services were reduced on a total of 30 high-speed trains, three national highways and three provincial highways across Beijing, Tianjin and Inner Mongolia, and roads in six other provinces were blocked Monday because of the heavy snowfall and bad weather conditions.

The government was blamed in 2008 for its slow response to one of the largest snow disasters in history, which affected 78 million people and caused losses of more than 50 billion yuan. This year, the public has shown no discontent toward the government's relief efforts.

Beijing Capital International Airport reported 690 delayed and 96 canceled flights as of 4 pm Monday after record heavy snow in the city paralyzed the airport on Sunday.

The three runways at the airport were all reopened Monday after efforts by more than 300 workers to clear the snow.

Airports in Tianjin, Hohhot, Dalian, Weifang, Shenyang, Guilin and other cities were closed on Sunday due to the snow but were reopened Monday.

"No major traffic accidents happened in Beijing Sunday evening, and there were no large areas of congestion on Monday morning because there were no classes at primary and middle schools Monday and most residents stayed at home," said an official from Beijing Traffic Management Bureau.

The 20-hour snowfall on Sunday in Beijing was a 59- year record. The depth of snow reported Sunday was 37.5 centimeters, in the city's Huairou district.

Due to the impact of the snow on road traffic, Beijing's subway was inundated with passengers Monday. Beijing Subway Company laid on an extra 20 trains.

To facilitate traffic, Beijing Environment Sanitation Engineering Group said almost all snow removal trucks and clearing staff, including 497 snow-sweepers, 771 auxiliary vehicles and more than 8,000 snow-clearing operators and 11,000 cleaners were deployed.

The Ministry of Public Security ordered local transport authorities to implement emergency measures and provide assistance to those affected by the snow storm.

The National Meteorological Center said the cold weather is likely to slow things down across the country for the next 10 days.

Northern China, the Yellow River Basin area and the area between the Yangtze and Huai rivers, as well as the Jianghan area, will experience the lowest temperatures tonight and tomorrow night of this winter.

On Sunday night, Shandong Province also experienced a spell of snow, strong winds and a drastic temperature drop. Yan Tai and Weihai have closed all highways, airports and seaports, China National Radio reported.

Source: Global Times
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