China has stepped up relief work for areas affected by ice and snow by mobilizing women's and youth organizations and military forces. The government also offered help to Taiwan compatriots and businessmen on the mainland who have been affected by the weather.
Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday visited passengers stranded at the railway station in the southern city of Guangzhou. He promised them that the government would do its best to ensure they got home for lunar New Year.
Heavy snow and icy rain falling since January 10 have brought traffic to a standstill at peak season, when millions of Chinese are on their way home to celebrate the Spring Festival.
The State Council announced on Wednesday that the central government would offer help to Taiwan compatriots and businessmen on the mainland who were also affected.
"The Taiwan Affairs Office is looking for Taiwan enterprises suffering snow disasters and would provide the maximum possible help to them," Yang Yi, a spokesman of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, told a regular news conference.
The All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) has donated more than four million yuan (US$530,000) to areas affected by snow-related disasters in central and southern China.
Women's organizations across the country were urged to provide aid to women and children from poor families in those areas, according to a circular issued by the ACWF on Tuesday.
The Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Youth League (CCYL) granted membership dues to support its members' disaster relief activities in nine provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities.
The nine areas seriously affected by snow and ice included Hunan, Hubei, Guizhou, Anhui, Jiangxi, Gansu and Sichuan provinces, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Chongqing City.
The CCYL also urged its members in disaster-stricken areas to help with disaster relief and emergency aid work.
The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) handed out 419,000 quilts and 219,000 cotton-padded coats in response to a plea for help from the State Disaster Relief Committee. The PLA's General Staff Department and the General Logistics Department searched military warehouses across the nation for quilts to send to storm-hit areas.
Meanwhile, traffic is slowly improving in southern Chinese provinces hit by the worst winter weather in five decades. Thousands of passengers, however, were still trapped on icy highways, the Ministry of Public Security said on Wednesday.
The north-south trunk road remained blocked at several sections. On expressways in central Hunan and Hubei provinces and southern Guangdong Province, traffic began to move slowly. But on the highway linking the eastern Anhui Province with neighboring Zhejiang Province and in eastern Jiangxi Province, many vehicles and people were stranded.
However, traffic movement in the southern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region has been totally restored.
Unusual cold, heavy snow, sleet and ice rain has hit 14 provinces in central and south China in the past two weeks. More than 77.8 million people had been affected by Monday afternoon, with 38 people killed since January 10, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
(Xinhua News Agency January 31, 2008)