Home-goers battle sleet and snowfalls

16:00, January 21, 2011      

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Workers remove snow from an aircraft at Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport on Thursday. (Xinhua Photo)

The heavy snow that is blanketing the southern and eastern regions of the country severely affected the Spring Festival transport peak with hundreds of flights, trains and buses delayed or canceled on Thursday.

Snow and sleet have swept Shanghai and Chongqing municipalities, as well as Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Yunnan provinces, causing continuous traffic problems, shutting down airports, and canceling or delaying other transport services.

Airports and national airlines in Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuhan and Hangzhou were severely affected.

"Work to remove ice and snow delayed 529 flights at Shanghai's Pudong and Hongqiao airports, while 183 planes were freed from snow by 5 pm," a female officer surnamed Tian at Shanghai Hongqiao Airport said on Thursday.

Xiaoshan airport in Hangzhou, the capital of neighboring Zhejiang province, was closed for seven hours until 11:50 am on Thursday due to heavy snowfalls. More than 400 flights at the airport were canceled. In parts of the province, the snow was more than 22 centimeters deep.

Chongqing's Zhoubai Airport was also closed on Thursday morning because of ice on the runway.

Trains were also delayed or canceled.

"More than 20 trains have been delayed and three trains were canceled at three train stations in Shanghai due to the bad weather. About 600 passengers on canceled lines have been transferred to road transport and some available train services," Dong Bilian, a spokeswoman for Shanghai Railway Station, said on Thursday.

Dong added that a backup plan had been prepared for the bad weather, with temporary underground waiting areas provided for passengers who were waiting for delayed or canceled trains.

"The train was supposed to leave at 8 am, but we never even got on board due to the heavy snow. We can do nothing but wait till the train services run on time again," said Qian Bin, a male migrant worker from Anhui province.

Qian, his wife and two children had waited in the station for more than three hours for a train home on Thursday.

Road traffic also has been affected due to accumulated snow on highways across the blizzard-affected areas.

Sections of the Nanchang-Jiujiang expressway in Jiangxi province were closed and traffic jams as long as 20 kilometers formed in the city of Jiujiang. Traffic on expressways in Guizhou and Anhui provinces was slowed down due to slippery roads, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

"By 4 pm, more than 250 coach services from our station had been canceled because buses from other provinces such as Jiangsu, Anhui and Zhejiang could not reach here. The driving speed was limited on most highways in the cities of Hangzhou, Shanghai and Nantong," said Zhang Yongbin, director of the Shanghai General Long-Distance Bus Station.

All passengers on canceled services had been transferred to available bus lines or other modes of transport, he said.

In Yunnan, the freezing weather also disrupted the operations of power transformer substations and transmission lines in eight cities. The ice on the lines was more than 21 millimeters thick in parts.

"To ensure an orderly Spring Festival travel period and power supply, electricity company employees are rushing to repair ice-covered lines," said Liao Zelong, general manager of the Yunnan branch of China Southern Power Grid.

The National Meteorological Center forecast most regions in South and East China will see more ice and snow in the next three days.

However, severe snowfalls failed to prevent a group of migrant workers in Chongqing from heading home for family reunions from Qianjiang to Pengshui.

More than 15 migrant workers could not wait for the delayed coaches, so at about 8 am on Wednesday they decided to walk 100 km home carrying luggage in the snow and strong winds, according to a report by the Xinhua News Agency.

"It usually takes 50 minutes by bus to travel the 100-km national highway, but we may need 14 hours to walk back home. We'll walk and see if we can make it. Otherwise we will need to stop in a nearby village for a night," Gan Xiaobo, one of the migrant workers, said.

Fortunately, the cleanup of the national highway was completed by noon on Wednesday with coach services back to normal.

All migrant workers who decided to walk on the highway were picked up by coaches and taken home.

By Yu Ran, China Daily
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