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China battles fierce weather(01/29/08)


  BEIJING, Jan. 29 -- Buildings are collapsing, the transport system is on its knees and the local power company is running out of steam - such is the impact of the heaviest snows to hit Shanghai in 17 years.

    And the cold snap is not over yet.

    On Monday, the Shanghai meteorological bureau upgraded its icy roads alert to the second-highest possible and warned people to take extra care on treacherous streets.

    It forecast the snow would abate in the night and but said today would remain cold.

    So far, some 37 buildings have collapsed under the weight of the snow, with 20 people reported injured.

    Local transport authorities said all highways connecting Shanghai and nearby cities have been closed and at least 2,000 buses have been cancelled. The Shanghai rail authority yesterday announced a blanket cancellation of all long-distance trains scheduled to depart Shanghai before Thursday, leaving 30,000 people stranded at stations.

    Liang Xiaochun, a migrant worker who had hoped to return to her home in Anhui province for the New Year holiday said she decided after a 10-hour wait to instead get a refund on her ticket.

    Railways official Sun Lei told China Daily: "We're not sure yet when normal operations will resume. But passengers can get refunds."

    At Hongqiao and Pudong airports, 96 flights were either delayed or cancelled.

    According to the Xinhua News Agency, most of the affected flights at Pudong were to or from Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia.

    Yao Lan, a white-collar worker with a foreign-owned company, said she has never seen such heavy snow.

    The freezing weather has also put huge pressure on the city's power supply.

    According to the Metro Express, demand for electricity has exceeded the maximum output for the past several days and the remaining coal supplies will be fully depleted in three days.

    A source with the power authority said it is in the process of sourcing more coal, which should arrive soon.

    Go slow in Zhengzhou

    Ge Tao is glad he flew to Zhengzhou on Saturday, as just 20 hours after arriving, the city's Xinzheng Airport was closed due to heavy snow.

    If I hadn't left when I did, I wouldn't have made it home," the businessman said.

    The closure led to more than 80 flights being canceled.

    Airport official Zheng Wenpeng said flights resumed at 9 am yesterday, to the delight of the 4,000 passengers who had been left stranded overnight.

    He said a further suspension "might occur at any time".

    As well as the airport being closed, trains between Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province, and Guangzhou were canceled on Sunday.

    Yesterday morning, 12,000 railway workers were drafted to clear snow from the tracks.

    Wang Feng, a railway official, told China Daily that once the tracks had been cleared, 12 additional trains were laid on to clear the backlog.

    As well as halting travelers, the weather has hit the local food supply. Dai Dafeng, a fruit and vegetable seller in Zhengzhou, said supplies had been running short for days.

    "We normally have 200 to 300 trucks delivering fruit and vegetables every day, but in recent days I have seen only a dozen or so," she said.

    Stranded in Guangzhou

    Wang Wenqiang is just one of the millions of migrant workers hoping to return home for the holidays after working in Zhongshan, Guangdong province. He is also one of the unfortunates who have fallen victim to disrupted rail services.

    The factory worker was hoping to return to his hometown in Sichuan province, but instead spent last night in a square outside Guangzhou railway station.

    He was glad yesterday morning when the authorities arranged for people like him to get temporary lodging, food and water in the heated exhibition halls of the Chinese Import and Export Fair, opposite the railway station.

    "I'm delighted with the government's concern for the stranded people," Wang told China Daily yesterday.

    He said he will get a refund for his ticket and return to Zhongshan for the New Year.

    Others, however, are more determined to get home.

    Hong Wangzhen, said she will not give up on going home to Hunan.

    "I've not been home for four years," she said.

    Officials said more than 170,000 rail passengers had been stranded. Although some trains running yesterday, the station has stopped selling tickets for all trains that depart through Feb 6.

    Guangdong Party secretary Wang Yang, Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu, and Guangzhou Party secretary Zhu Xiaodan have all visited the railway station in the past two days, and have jointly urged government departments to do everything they can to contribute to people's safe journeys.

    The freezing weather has also disrupted Guangdong's air and coach services.

    About 10,000 passengers were reportedly stranded at Guangzhou airport yesterday after 30 flights were cancelled. Also, some 50,000 vehicles were stranded on the Shaoguan section of the Beijing-Zhuhai expressway due to heavy snow.

    No flights in Nanjing

    In Nanjing, Jiangsu province, heavy snow over the past three days has had a huge impact on travelers. On Sunday, for the first time ever, all flights to and from Lukou International Airport were cancelled.

    Wang Pei, head of the airport's service division, said: "Although the blower trucks were working continuously to try and clear the runway, their efforts were in vain because the snow fell almost nonstop."

    It was a similar situation at the coach station where 3,000 passengers were left with nothing to do but wait due to widespread road closures.

    "I have been waiting for three days, but still don't know when I can leave," Jiang Haiping, a migrant worker from Chongqing, said.

    The slippery roads have also become a safety hazard.

    Wang Lijun, a doctor at Nanjing Gulou Hospital, said: "We have had 30 patients today, most of them with broken legs and arms from falling on the ice."

    (Source: chinadaily.com.cn)

Editor: Han Lin

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