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Power mostly restored in snow-stricken areas
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Electricity was partly or fully restored to 164 snow-stricken counties in China, including Chenzhou city in Hunan Province, after workers reconnected local power lines to the national grid, Xinhua learned late Wednesday.


The power came back on just in time for the Lunar New Year holiday.


The remaining five counties blacked out by the worst winter snow in more than five decades were using portable generators, the disaster relief and emergency command center under the State Council said.


The center said Wednesday afternoon that 13 percent of the countryside in the disaster areas remained in the dark on the Lunar New Year's Eve, the most important family holiday in China.


In Chenzhou, the hardest-hit by the weather, about 1,000 pylons and poles collapsed under the weight of ice and snow, which meant that the local grid, which took decades to build, was totally destroyed. More than 5,000 utility workers, including 2,000 from other provinces, were still struggling to repair the damage on Wednesday.


The severe weather killed scores of people and disrupted transport and power services across a large swathe of the country's southern, central and eastern regions.


Nationwide, 36.23 million kilowatts of generating capacity were still closed as of Tuesday because of coal shortages caused by transportation disruptions. But that was 990,000 kw less off-line than on Monday.


A total 2,282 coal mines, or 63.8 percent of the nation's coal production capacity, would operate normally during the Spring Festival after the government called them to raise output to ease shortage. The percentage was 23.2 points higher than originally planned.


The government transported an average of 42,953 container rail cars of power coal per day from Feb. 1 to 5, which was 53 percent more than a year earlier, according to the Ministry of Railways. A year earlier, however, there was no comparable weather disruption.


Rail, road, and air services were returning to normal as the weather cleared over the past few days, ending more than three weeks of snow, sleet and freezing rain.


All the airports, except small regional Liping airport in Guizhou, have been reopened by Wednesday. All the earlier stranded passengers at the major railway stations have also taken trains.


The mobile phone base stations that were paralyzed by the severe weather have been reduced to 14,000 by 6:00 p.m. Wednesday, 19,000 less than a day ago.


The China Meteorological Administration (CMA) on Wednesday took weather officials off severe alert status, as forecasts for rain and snow were downgraded for central, eastern and southern provinces.


As most of China is predicted to have clear weather for the Lunar New Year holiday, the country may get a breathing space to recover from the disaster.


(Xinhua News Agency February 7, 2008)


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