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Traffic havoc continues due to snowy weather
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Road traffic in some areas of south China remains at a standstill due to a prolonged snow, rain and cold weather spell, stranding tens of thousands of people on their way home for the upcoming Spring Festival holiday.

Seven expressways and 21 highways in southwestern Guizhou Province were closed on Friday due to ice, stranding 27,000 travelers in bus stations in Tongren and Zunyi, according to the provincial communications department.

In neighboring Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, more than 800 vehicles, including 270 buses and 8,000 passengers, were stranded in an area near Guizhou because of highway closures, a Guangxi communications official said.

The regional road administration authorities had sent four work teams to Guilin and Hechi to help with traffic order and offer food and drink to stranded drivers and passengers, said Wei Hongjiao, a regional communications department official.

The road departments had mobilized maintenance workers and ice-clearing vehicles to prevent ice-related traffic accidents, Wei said.

The snow and rain accompanied by low temperatures since the beginning of mid-January also hit central Hunan Province.

Most of the expressways in Hunan were closed. Some major power transmission lines were out of operation, leading to a strained supply.

In Changsha, Hunan's capital, electricity for heating equipment in hotels and entertainment venues had been suspended, said Dai Qinghua, a chief engineer of Hunan Power Company.

Dai said more than 8,000 power workers were struggling to maintain the power supply in the province.

Weather forecasts say the affected areas will see more snow in the next three days.

Road authorities have been alerting passengers to weather conditions when traveling.

More snow was forecast to come to east China from the west in the next four days, said Shanghai Meteorological Center.

In the Changjiang River Delta Region, heavy snow and snowstorms will hit central Jiangsu Province, with lighter precipitations in Shanghai, southern Jiangsu and northern Zhejiang Province, according to the meteorological center.

Freezing temperatures could close highways from Shanghai to Ningbo and Hangzhou in Zhejiang.

Highway toll stations and service areas in central China's Hunan Province have experienced strained water and power supplies. Some have lost communication, according to the local highway operation company.

Of the 17 service areas on each side of the highways and four parking lots run by the company, power have been shut in ten and four had no water supply.

Airlines are also affected. By Friday evening, Huanghua Airport in Changsha, capital of Hunan Province, had been closed twice leaving more than 6,000 passengers stranded.

In southwest China's Yunnan Province, aircraft have been stranded at Shangrila Airport, in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Deqen. National Way 214 and routes to Shangrila had been blocked by snow, said Xia Yonghong, deputy secretary general of Deqen on Friday.

In neighboring Guizhou Province, temperatures are set to plunge on Tuesday. Highways and national ways have been affected to different degrees, and 6.87 million people have been affected and three killed in snow-related accidents.

The Ministry of Communications estimated the number of road transport journeys to increase five percent to 2.1 billion during the Spring Festival travel season, which lasts about 40 days until March 2.

The snow and cold weather, the worst in a decade in many places, has left homes collapsed, power blackouts, highways closed and crops destroyed.

Eight people have died in snow-related accidents, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs. About 32.9 million people have been affected in 10 provinces across China, including east Anhui, central Hubei and west Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Total damage is estimated at 6.23 billion yuan (865.3 million U.S. dollars).

The central government has allocated money and materials to affected areas to guarantee basic living standards for people affected.

(Xinhua News Agency January 26, 2008)

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