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Road Traffic Havoc Continues Due to Snowy Weather

Road traffic in some areas of south China remains at a standstill due to a prolonged snow, rain and cold weather spell, stranding tens of thousands of people on their way home for the upcoming Spring Festival holiday.

Seven expressways and 21 highways in southwestern Guizhou Province were closed on Friday due to ice, stranding 27,000 travelers in bus stations in Tongren and Zunyi, according to the provincial communications department.

In neighboring Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, more than 800 vehicles, including 270 buses and 8,000 passengers, were stranded in an area near Guizhou because of highway shutdowns, a Guangxi communications official said.

The regional road administration authorities had sent four work teams to Guilin and Hechi to help with traffic order and offer food and drink to stranded drivers and passengers, said Wei Hongjiao, a regional communications department official.

The road departments had mobilized maintenance workers and ice-clearing vehicles to prevent ice-related traffic accidents, Wei said.

The snowy and rainy weather accompanied by low temperatures since the beginning of mid-January also hit central Hunan Province.

Most of the expressways in Hunan were closed. Some major power transmission lines were out of operation, leading to a strained supply.

In Changsha, Hunan's capital, electricity for warming equipment in hotels and entertainment venues has been suspended, according to Dai Qinghua, a chief engineer of Hunan Power Company.

Dai said more than 8,000 power workers were struggling to ensure power supply in the province.

To worsen the situation, weather forecasts said, the affected areas would have another round of snowfall in the next three days.

Road authorities have been alerting passengers to weather conditions when traveling.

China's Ministry of Communications estimated the number of passengers who travel by roads was expected to increase five percent to reach 2.1 billion during the Spring Festival travel season, which lasts about 40 days until March 2.

The snowy and cold weather, the worst in a decade in many places, has left homes collapsed, power blackouts, highways closed and crops destroyed.

Eight people have died in snow-related accidents, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs. About 32.9 million people have been affected in 10 provinces across China, including east Anhui, central Hubei and west Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Total damage is estimated at 6.23 billion yuan (US$865.3 million).

The central government has allocated money and materials to affected areas to guarantee basic living standards for people affected.

(Xinhua News Agency January 26, 2008)

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