Weather conditions in southern China will remain severe and relief work a difficult task, Chinese leaders warned the nation on Sunday when disaster-hit areas reported mixture of good and bad news.
The warning came after a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Beijing on Sunday. It was chaired by President Hu Jintao and studied the current relief work.
Premier Wen Jiabao, one of the nine members, has just concluded his second visit in a week to central Hunan Province which was worst hit by the unusual winter weather.
Wen's last stop, Chenzhou City, is still suffering blackout and lack of tap water due to failure of utility facilities caused by heavy snow.
Wen paid home visits to local residents during his stay there Saturday afternoon.
Xie Yunqing, one of the 4 million city residents, received the Premier at her house which had been short of electricity for ten days.
She told Wen that the local government has sent battery-powered lamps and foods.
"Please be patient. The situation will be better in a few days as the government is going all out to help you. Technicians rushed here from across the country to help fix the power transmission facilities," Wen said.
The Premier asked local authorities to "act now, don't wait."
"We have to be clear minded that certain regions in the south will continue to undergo icy weather caused by rain and snow and severe disasters will continue," said a statement issued after the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.
The worst winter disaster in five decades had sacked 19 out of 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in the Chinese mainland. By Friday, more than 60 people were killed in winter storm and nearly 1.76 million relocated in the past two weeks but the latest casualty figure are not available so far.
"Relief work will remain very grim, posing a tough task on us," the statement added.
Premier Wen said during his visit in Hunan, "We have the faith, courage and ability to overcome the severe natural disaster no matter how the weather will change."
The statement noted that it remains upmost for the government to restore transportation and power supply and guarantee people's daily needs.
The meeting called on provincial and local governments, as well as officials, to continue to make the relief work a top priority though transportation and power supply chaos in some disaster-hit regions have been eased.
The transportation authority shall prioritize stranded people on their way home, relief material, daily necessities and coal to fuel power plants, the statement said.
Residential areas, hospitals, schools and railway stations will top the list of power supply and the country is to allocate more electricity to disaster-hit regions from neighboring areas, it added.
Governments of all levels are required to crack down upon overcharging, especially on daily commodities such as rice, meat and cooking oil.
The areas that did not suffer the winter storm are urged to reach out to those needing help, it said.
The meeting also asked disaster-suffering provinces to take up rehabilitation work as soon as possible.
"We are trying to minimize the damage and stabilize the economy," the statement said.
Good News, sad news
The Beijing-Zhuhai expressway, a north-south trunk road, reopened at Hunan Sunday afternoon after days of hard work by 1,200 soldiers and armed police, relieving about 10,000 vehicles.
The expressway sections in Hunan and southern Guangdong Province had been repeatedly blocked in the past week.
Chen Erqun, a truck driver from central Henan Province, has been trapped on the expressway in Chenzhou city of Hunan for nine days.
"What I want most is to reach Guangdong and take a good bath and then sleep," he said.
But for Li Hongxia, a Guangzhou watch factory worker from northern Hubei Province, her hope lost forever.
Passengers hungry for a train ticket are packing big railway junctures such as the Guangzhou Railway Station. The situation lost control there Friday evening and Li became the victim. She was seriously injured in a stampede and died Saturday morning at hospital.
The whole country is engaged in the battle against the winter disaster.
The central leadership has made remarkable efforts to boost public morale.
All nine members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee visited disaster-affected regions, people or departments in the past week.
President Hu Jintao went 400 meters underground to visit coal miners in Datong, Shanxi Province, Thursday to encourage them working hard to help disaster-affected people in the south pull through power supply shortage.
On Sunday, top legislator Wu Bangguo visited State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) and the Railway Ministry calling workers to spare no efforts in resuming power supply and transportation in China's snow-and-ice hit regions.
"Senior leaders visiting disaster hit areas are 'a natural response' by the government that shows care for people," said Michael Chui, a Hong Kong born Chinese living in Beijing, "It's an important move that shows the government is 'aware of the problem' and think about the people."
The government becomes more open about information this time, he added.
The other sectors in Chinese society acted quickly as well.
Chinese army sent out military vehicles, from tanks to armored cars, to clean the highways while the air force's helicopters and transporters lifted relief material such as candles and quilts to several heavily-affected regions.
Some private companies Sunday donated more than 10 million yuan (US$1.36 million) worth of relief material and money to victims in affected areas.
And 65,000 medical workers are serving victims in the fields, according to the Ministry of Health.
(Xinhua News Agency February 4, 2008)