Bad weather has caused such disruption in mountainous areas of southern and central China that the government has ordered the deployment of military helicopters to aid disaster relief work.
"The winter storms have caused more damage than other disasters such as the flooding in 1998. Since some hard-hit places are in mountainous areas it has been difficult for local governments to launch a relief campaign," said Wang Zhenyao, director of the disaster relief department at the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
"The situation in some mountainous areas of Hunan, Hubei, Anhui, Jiangxi, Guizhou provinces and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is more serious comparatively, as the continuing snowfall has paralyzed transportation," said Wang.
"The large number of passengers traveling home to celebrate the coming New Year festival, which starts on February 6 has made the whole thing even worse," he added.
China's railway officials had estimated a passenger flow of 178.6 million over the holiday period.
Up to now 158,000 army troops and the Chinese People's Armed Police (PAP) and 303,000 paramilitary members have joined the relief effort, and nearly one million police have been dispatched to keep traffic in order on China's road network, which in many areas has been paralyzed by the harsh weather.
(Xinhua News Agency January 30, 2008)