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Lengthy ride for rail passengers
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Back on the road Traffic begins to flow again yesterday on a bridge in Hefei, Anhui province, which had been forced to close due to heavy snow.

It was supposed to be an 18-hour train ride for 55-year-old Sun Junlan.

But instead, the migrant worker had to make the two cakes he took for his journey from Guangzhou to Dengzhou in Henan province last him 57 hours.

When the train was blocked by fallen power cables in Hengyang, Hunan province, Sun slept to kill time and to forget about his mounting hunger.

The train stopped for 16 hours, before turning back to Guangzhou for a detour.

When it entered Hunan again, there was no longer any food on board.

"We were all too hungry to speak," Sun said.

"Fortunately, staff succeeded in obtaining noodles and cabbage in Huaihua.

"More than 100 people rushed to the dining car. The noodles were gone in minutes."

After starving for two-and-a-half days, Sun finally arrived at his destination.

"I had to sleep a whole day to recover from the ordeal," he said.

Still, Sun was considered one of the lucky ones - at least he made it home.

Thousands of others remain stranded on trains and at stations.

The Ministry of Public Security said at least 62 passenger trains are still stranded in Hunan and Guangdong provinces due to the freezing weather that has struck central, eastern and southern China since Jan 10.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Railways has provided 173 power generators to help railway stations restore supplies and recover signal services. It has also deployed close to 200 diesel engines to tug electric passenger trains out of areas suffering from blackouts.

By noon yesterday, 411 trains had been forced to make detours, the ministry said.

In Guangdong, which has suffered one of the worst disruptions, 380,000 people have been given refunds on their train tickets.

Despite the difficulties, one young couple stranded on a train was determined to get married on Sunday as planned.

Chongqing native Wu Haifeng and his bride Lu Yixiang from Shenzhen set off for the groom's home but were stranded for 10 hours.

Not wanting to miss the auspicious time for the wedding, they decided to tie the knot on the train instead.

Passing packs of cigarettes to passengers to mark the occasion, Wu said their announcement served as a reprieve for all on board.

"To our relief, everyone cheered, shook hands and smiled," he said.

Roads and air traffic

The southern part of the Beijing-Zhuhai expressway, a north-south trunk road, had to postpone its reopening because of continued snowfall and freezing temperatures.

The Ministry of Public Security said as of Tuesday, 20,000 people were still trapped in vehicles backed up for kilometers along the Hunan section of the road.

More than 115 de-icing machines are now on the road to help reopen the section.

The snow and sleet also forced Changsha airport in Hunan province to close again yesterday after resuming operations briefly on Tuesday. The civil aviation administration said 14 airports were affected and 1,100 flights have been cancelled or delayed.

(China Daily January 31, 2008)


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