Rail, highway and air transport systems paralyzed by freezing weather in south China are recovering gradually ahead of the Lunar New Year, but millions of people are still cold and in the dark.
To keep the expressways moving, the transport authorities in eastern Zhejiang Province on Tuesday suspended all vehicle tolls.
The move came after a major north-south trunk road, the Beijing-Zhuhai expressway, returned to normal on Monday after de-icing work by 1,200 troops and police over the past week.
Most airports in snow-stricken regions have resumed operations, although heavy fog delayed a number of flights in the eastern cities of Hangzhou, Nanjing and Nanchang on Tuesday morning. It was not immediately known how many passengers were stranded.
As of noon on Tuesday, service at two railway stations in the southern city of Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, was back to normal after 11 days of chaos, according to the Guangzhou Railway Group Corp., which is under the Ministry of Railways.
"About 3.5 million people left the province by train by Tuesday noon, and basically, all the passengers who held tickets but had been stranded at different railway stations have left," a spokesman said.
Guangzhou, with one of the biggest concentrations of the country's 200 million migrant workers, is the southern terminal of a trunk railway line that runs northward to Beijing.
With the resumption of rail transport in south China, the number of railway passengers across the country is expected to rise dramatically on Tuesday, just a day ahead of the week-long national holiday of the Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, which falls on Thursday.
About 350,000 train passengers left Beijing on Monday, 20,000 more than on Sunday, according to a spokesman with the Beijing Railway Bureau, also under the Ministry of Railways. He said that rail stations in the capital would probably see ridership peak on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Chenzhou, a city of about 4 million in the central Hunan Province, began its 11th day of power blackouts and water cuts on Tuesday. Tens of thousands of workers were struggling to repair damaged power lines to get the lights back on in time for the Spring Festival.
Snow has been falling in China's eastern, central and southern regions since mid-January, leading to deaths, structural collapses, blackouts, accidents, transport problems and livestock and crop losses in 19 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs. More than 100 million people have been affected, and at least 60 people have died in the severe weather.
(Xinhua News Agency February 5, 2008)