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Migrant Workers Advised to Stay in Cities amid Heavy Snow

Appalling weather has led authorities in south China's Guangdong Province to advise millions of migrant workers to give up family reunion plans and stay in the cities where they work during the upcoming Spring Festival because they may not be able to complete their journeys home.

"Authorities shall persuade migrant workers to postpone homebound journeys and strive to keep more than 65 percent of them in Guangdong during the festival," said a circular issued by the department of labor and social security in Guangdong, a province with 30 million migrant workers.

As part of the effort, the Guangzhou federation of trade unions in this provincial capital has prepared 50 free movie shows for migrant workers who choose to stay, and invited 3,000 workers to an evening party along the Zhujiang River during the festival, which falls on February 7.

"We would try to bring festive warmth to them and make them feel good although they are not with families," said Yi Lihua, a federation official.

More than half a million railway passengers are stranded in Guangzhou because the southern end of the Beijing-Guangzhou rail line, a north-south trunk railway, has been paralyzed because of heavy snow in the central Hunan Province where power transmission facilities have been knocked out. Police and armed police were deployed to keep order.

Adding to the woes, seven of the eight highways connecting Guangdong and Hunan provinces have been closed.

China has about 200 million migrant workers who travel every year between cities and their homes in the countryside to celebrate the Spring Festival, a time when Chinese traditionally return to their families. This brings huge pressure to bear on the transportation network, made worse by the unusually heavy snow falls in southern and central China.

The snow, the heaviest in a decade in many places, has been falling in east, central and south China since January 12, causing deaths, structural collapses, power blackouts, highway closures and crop destruction.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs said Monday 24 people have died in snow since January 10, and more than 77.86 million people had been affected in 14 provinces, including Anhui, Jiangxi, Hubei and Hunan.

(Xinhua News Agency January 29, 2008)

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