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Chenzhou hopes for electricity for Lantern Festival
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Thousands of electricians are braving the freezing cold fixing the collapsed power network in Chenzhou, the worst-hit city in China's latest blizzard. Two of their colleagues have died on the job.

Xinhua's reporter saw 60 workers sweatily pulling up an ice-caked wire pole, which fell down in a snow-covered field in Gutian village of Chenzhou in central China's Hunan Province.

Two repair workers have died in the strenuous grid repair work in the snow-hit province. Xiao Jianhua, a 37-year-old electrician died after falling to the ground from a pylon, on which he was fixing the wire 10 meters above the ground, when the iced-over pylon collapsed under the weight of snow. Another worker, Zeng Lijun, died of fatigue while working on a pylon.

"Our objective is to get the local power network linked to the State Grid before the Lantern Festival on Feb. 21," said Ye Xinjun, deputy director of the Changsha Power Bureau, who is leading more than 400 workers fixing a 110-kilovolt power line in the village, where 27 pylons were damaged.

Lantern Festival falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month, featuring decorative lanterns illuminating the night sky as the New Year celebrations come to a climax.

Residents in Chenzhou, a city of about 4 million, have spent the whole Spring Festival (Chinese Lunar New Year) in dark, suffering for over two weeks without electricity and tap water.

"The power line is important to link the regional power network with the State Grid. We have been here since Feb. 8. Our men are determined to get the power back for residents before the Lantern Festival. The amount of work normally takes three months to do," said Ye.

"The workers have been working too hard. We thank them from the bottom of our heart," said Xie Fengqing, a villager in Gutian.

He said that the workers have worked and had dinner in the field without bothering villagers.

A working team sent by the Chinese government to Chenzhou has found after investigation that the wide power blackout was caused by snow and ice accumulation during the worst snow havoc in five decades.

"Many of the electric wire poles are coked with 50-60 mm of ice, which fracture easily in the below-zero temperature," said Zeng Lijun, engineer-in-chief with the Chenzhou Power Corp.

The grid repair work in Hunan has received 40 million yuan (5 million U.S. dollars) of funding from the central government. It is urgently in need of 5,000 tons of steel products to prop up the damaged power lines, said Huang Qiang, a local power official.

He expected that normal power supply across the province would not be resumed until the end of March.

(Xinhua News Agency February 20, 2008)

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