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City's Festive Lighting Criticized as Chinese Shiver amid Power Cuts

Southwest China's Zigong city has been criticized for keeping a sea of lanterns, first put up for the International Dinosaur Lantern Festival since Jan. 16, which lit despite large-scale electricity shortages triggered by heavy snowfalls.

The city, famed for its dinosaur fossils, has sought a new title - "the southern city of lights", and it wants to keep the lanterns lit for at least 150 days.

However, the city has faced serious electricity shortage due to continuous heavy snow which has already hampered electricity supplies and paralyzed transport in half of the country.

Netizens have suggested priority should be given to household consumption, and that the lantern festival should be suspended. However, the organizers said that the festival will not be affected by the electricity shortage.

The Sichuan Province has undergone extreme cold weather, rarely seen in the past two decades, with the average temperature at zero degree centigrade, almost 5 degrees centigrade below the usual temperature for this time of year.

The province has also experienced sporadic blackouts since the snowfall disaster. Officials with the provincial power company said that if action is not taken, the provincial power grids will face serious blackout threat.

As a result, Zigong city was told to cut its electricity supply. The Zigong Daily reported Thursday that the city is short of 2.3 million kWh electricity daily, 30 percent of its minimum daily consumption. Some factories have been rationed for electricity for nearly 15 days.

The city government started its contingency plan for possible blackouts on Jan. 14, stating that the government will guarantee electricity for household use first.

The city government has yet to change its mind about the lantern festival, said an official with the city government, speaking under conditions of anonymity.

(Xinhua News Agency February 1, 2008)

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