Three weeks into the worst winter weather crisis in five decades, heavy fog added to the misery as it shrouded parts of central China's Hunan Province on Sunday, delaying flights and bringing road traffic to a standstill.
In the capital city of Changsha, visibility was reduced to 50 meters on Sunday morning.
The provincial meteorological station said that the fog, which hovered over the central and northern parts of the province, was likely to persist until early afternoon.
The fog, plus ice on the roads, closed highways and brought city center traffic to a standstill in the morning rush hour.
Sunday was a normal business day in China this week, and the working population was told to "save" the weekend in order to take seven days off during the Lunar Chinese New Year, which starts on Wednesday.
Not a single flight left the Huanghua International Airport in Changsha before 10:00 a.m.
The provincial weather bureau has warned that the severe weather would persist, with more snow or sleet forecast for Monday and Tuesday.
It said that the minimum temperature averaged minus four degrees Celsius on Sunday and highways to the mountainous regions in the western and southern areas remained icy.
Heavy fog also enveloped the central eastern provinces of Anhui and Jiangxi and the southwestern Guizhou Province, according to the Central Meteorological Bureau.
Meanwhile, workers continued removing ice from the roads to smooth the traffic flow.
A bus carrying 30 children, aged from 2 to 16, was stranded on the pivotal expressway linking Beijing and Zhuhai in the southern Guangdong Province for eight days. The group was only able to board a train to Guangzhou on Friday.
The children left their homes in the central province of Hubei on Jan. 24 to spend the Chinese New Year with their parents, who work in the southern "boom towns" of Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Dongguan. The journey, which usually takes 15 hours, lasted until Saturday, when volunteers from the South China Metropolitan News helped arrange family reunions.
Rail service in Guangzhou could start to return to normal on Sunday with 100 trains scheduled to depart, close to the usual number, the Guangzhou Railway Group said.
Trains carried more than 120,000 stranded passengers out of Guangzhou between 6:00 p.m. Saturday and 6:00 a.m. on Sunday. At one point last week, more than 600,000 people were stranded at the Guangzhou Railway Station after snow caused a power failure in Hunan Province, along the trunk route between Beijing and Guangzhou.
The weather crisis could stop many holiday travelers from going home for family reunions. Across China, government officials have tried to persuade migrant workers to stay where they are.
In Beijing, newspapers solicited ideas from the public about how to help the migrants spend a happy holiday away from home.
Guangzhou said it would open 157 parks for free, from Sunday through Feb. 12, to migrant workers who chose to stay for the holiday.
(Xinhua News Agency February 3, 2008)