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Fresh snowfalls predicted in China
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Chinese people are enjoying the week-long holiday ushering in an auspicious Year of the Mouse, as the government races to repair electricity grids and deliver food, blankets and other supplies to areas hit by the worst snowstorms in more than 50 years.

Weather forecasters say new downfalls are to hit the south next week.

Electricians inspect power transformers in Guiyang, Southwest China's Guizhou Province, during the Lunar New Year holiday on February 8, 2008. China raced to repair electricity grids and deliver food, blankets to areas hit by the worst snowstorms in 50 years as new downfalls are forecast to hit the south early next week.

Stranded train passengers have been cleared from stations and food prices are falling after the government released supplies from reserves, according to a statement yesterday on the Web site of the State Council. Electricity was restored to 164 of 169 snow-affected counties.

The biggest snowfalls in China since 1954 clogged road, rail and air routes as millions of migrant workers made the annual journey home for the Chinese New Year holiday. Figures from the disaster relief and emergency command center show domestic insurers have paid out 917 million yuan (US$128 million) in snow-related claims.

The unexpected spate of extreme weather, which brought widespread chaos, revealed the weak points of China's fast-growing economy.

The economy has boomed since it launched an opening-up policy in 1978, but the gap between limited resources and increasing demand has remained unsolved, experts said, citing the examples of the Spring Festival transportation period and coal and electricity shortages triggered by the weather problems.

The China Meteorological Administration warned Thursday in a statement that snows and freezing rain may hit southern China again early next week, including Guizhou Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. It would cause more delays as workers return to their jobs.

An estimated 200 million migrant workers headed home for Lunar New Year, celebrated on February 7, and will soon begin to travel back to their workplaces.

Warmer weather allowed the bureau to lift its severe weather alert two days ago, but it said the improved weather will cause snow to melt and may bring landslides in mountainous areas.

More than three weeks of snowstorms killed at least 80 people and caused direct economic losses of about 80 billion yuan, according to the Red Cross Society of China.

Food prices in China continued to fall, after the cost of vegetables in 36 cities rose more than 30 percent between Jan. 25 and Jan. 30 because of the transport problems.

The average wholesale price of vegetables in large and medium-sized cities in China declined 1.5 percent on Feb. 5 from a day earlier, while the average wholesale price of pork fell 0.6 percent, the State Council said on its Web site yesterday.

Among Chinese mobile phone users, many recalled the three weeks of severe weather in their New Year text messages, stressing the significance of family, friendship, the leadership and the spirit of determination and unity among people in coping with the natural disaster.

"We have tamed the disaster with strong determination. Let's now brace for the grand Olympic event," Ren Libo, a native of Guizhou, said before getting off his homebound train on Wednesday night.

(Xinhua News Agency February 9, 2008)

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