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Tanks Used to Deice Storm-affected Highways

The Chinese army has sent out tanks to clean icy expressways in the eastern Anhui Province.

Two tanks finished their work on Sunday, de-icing an 110-kilometer stretch on two expressways in the province, military sources said on Sunday.

The Hefei-Anqing and Hefei-Wuhu expressways have suffered heavy snowfall in the past week leaving thousands of vehicles stranded.

The tanks were sent there on Thursday evening, but it took them more than 30 hours to cover a distance that usually takes 2.5 hours in normal weather, due to the dense traffic along the way.

The de-icing started on early Saturday morning, the source said.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China has, so far, deployed 306,000 soldiers to combat the worst winter storm in five decades.

About 1.07 million militia and army reservists were also participating in the relief efforts.

Other military vehicles, such as field kitchen trucks and armored cars, are playing an important role in de-icing and rescue missions. More than 100 aircraft and helicopters remain on standby, air force sources said.

Armored cars are busy de-icing the road surface along the Beijing-Zhuhai expressway, a north-south trunk road, that has been repeatedly affected by the winter storm.

By 3:00 PM on Sunday, the PLA had sent out 46 aircraft and helicopters to airlift 625.5 tons of relief supplies to snow-stricken areas, including Guizhou, Sichuan and Hunan provinces and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Military transporters are airlifting 582.5 tons of coats, medicine and food. As for areas where no airports were available for transporters to land, 43 tons of relief supplies will be transferred there by nine helicopters, military sources said.

The airdrop mission is on-going.

Elsewhere, 504,000 candles will be airlifted on Monday to the Enshi Tu and Miao autonomous prefectures in the central Hubei Province where electricity has been cut off by the snow.

Military sources said one plane was enough to transfer the candles and the crew members were in full preparation.

The candles, which weigh 28.66 tons, were sourced in Dalian in the northeast Liaoning Province.

On Saturday, the air force had sent three transporters to help ship relief materials from southern Guangdong Province to the hard-hit neighboring Hunan Province.

Meanwhile, two transporters flew to the southwestern province of Guizhou, carrying 5.5 tons of relief materials and equipment.

By 1:33 PM on Saturday, the first of six helicopters loaded with relief goods, deployed by the Chengdu Military Area in southwest China, flew to Yibin, Sichuan Province. The choppers were to airdrop 5,500 quilts over snow-hit areas in Dazhou and Yibin's Changning County, an area which was hit by a medium-intensity earthquake early on Friday.

(Xinhua News Agency February 4, 2008)

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