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Heavy snow chokes transport ahead of Spring Festival
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Heavy snow in China's central and eastern areas has led to expressway closures, flight cancellations and hoards of passengers swarming into railway stations.

Snowstorms worsened the situation for the country's transportation system that is already running at peak levels with millions of people trying to return to their homes for the traditional Spring Festival.

A total of 1,200 passengers were stranded at Guangzhou's Baiyun airport on Saturday and Sunday. The number fell to 200 on Monday as flights to Changde of Hunan and Luoyang of Henan remained suspended.

About 8,800 of the 9,500 long-distance coaches scheduled to depart central Chinese city of Wuhan have been cancelled, affecting 300,000 passengers.

Blizzards cut off all the expressways in central China's Shanxi and Henan provinces and most expressways in eastern Jiangsu province.

"People usually turn to railway transportation, which is less affected by bad weather, when there are expressway closures and flight cancellations and delays," said Ministry of Railway spokesman Wang Yongping.

On Saturday alone, railways across the country delivered 4.5 million passengers, up 44.5 percent from a year ago, according to the latest data from the ministry.

"The number of railway passengers this year could be much larger than ever," Wang said.

The ministry previously forecast that China's railways would carry a record 178.6 million passengers during the travel rush from Jan. 23 to March 2, up from 156 million last year.

Accidents have happened. Leng Jing, a student from the Anhui Normal University, was killed after being falling off an overcrowded platform in a railway station in Wuhu, Anhui province.

In Changsha, Hunan, more than 100 passengers holding tickets failed to board a packed train. The heads of both stations were sacked by Monday.

Meanwhile, a Beijing airport official said "a few" flights on Monday had been delayed because of snow, but gave no further details.

The National Meteorological Center forecast that heavy snows and rains would continue to hit the central provinces of Henan and Hubei and eastern provinces of Shandong, Jiangsu and Anhui in the next two days.

The Ministry of Communications has issued an urgent notice, ordering local transport departments to be well prepared for further possible emergencies caused by the extreme weather.

(Xinhua News Agency January 22, 2008)


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