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Full power returning to snow-hit regions
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The country's snow-ravaged regions are gradually recovering from widespread blackouts caused by the cold, latest official figures have showed.

As of Saturday, the Southern Power Grid has lifted 23.28 million people from darkness, accounting for 88.9 percent of the total number suffering from the power outages, statistics from the disaster relief and emergency command center under the State Council showed.

The State Grid Corporation of China has also restored 14,200 power transmission lines, or 92.9 percent of the total amount damaged, the center said.

A total of 802 transformer substations have resumed operations, representing 97.1 percent of the number disrupted by the severe weather.

All villages and counties in Zhejiang and Guizhou Provinces have had power restored as of Saturday afternoon, officials said.

Similarly, 91.8 percent of Hunan's power transmission lines paralyzed by the snowstorm have been restored. Jiangxi has had 91.5 percent of its lines restored.

The blizzards, the worst in five decades, have claimed 107 lives and caused 111.1 billion yuan ($15.45 billion) in direct economic losses.

In all, 21 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities have been affected in the past month.

The State Disaster Relief Commission and the Ministry of Civil Affairs has canceled states of emergency in seven provinces hit by the cold as of Friday .

"Currently, the Spring Festival traffic peak and power grid reconstruction is going on smoothly, and the shortage of coal supply for power plants has been eased," the special command under the State Council for relief of the disaster said on Saturday.

The situation in the seven southern regions of Hunan, Hubei, Anhui, Guizhou, Sichuan, Guangxi and Jiangxi, have gradually returned to normal, the center said.

By 4:00 pm on Friday, traffic on major national highways previously closed because of the cold had resumed.

Li Pumin, spokesman for the special command, said priority should be given to the reconstruction of infrastructure facilities so as to restore agricultural and industrial production, as well as return the lives of disaster-hit residents back to normal.

In a related development, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China had deployed 729,000 soldiers by 6:00 pm on Thursday to combat the month-long winter storms in the southern parts of the country, a military source said.

About 1.96 million militia and army reservists participated in the relief efforts, said the PLA's emergency response group. The PLA currently has 2.3 million troops.

On Feb 14 alone, 35,189 military personnel and 64,159 militia and army reservists were sent to assist disaster relief efforts.

Soldiers reportedly resorted to uncommon measures including shooting power lines with submachine guns to shatter icicles and driving tanks to crush ice on roads.

Military vehicles such as field kitchen trucks and armored cars played an important role in de-icing and rescue missions, official said.

(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency, February 18, 2008)

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