Chinese President Hu Jintao on Thursday urged the safeguarding of the production and transport of coal for power generation, in light of the severe weather affecting much of the country.
Hu spoke during an inspection of coal fields in Datong in Shanxi Province and Qinhuangdao Port in Hebei province, through which much of Shanxi's coal is shipped.
Hu urged governmental officials accompanying him in his special plane to give priorities to people's needs and interests, noting the most urgent task at present is to to maintain normal order of transportation and power supply.
In footage shown on CCTV on Thursday evening, Hu entered a coal mine more than 400 meters underground, taking an elevator down to meet miners of the Datangtashan coal mine co-op in Datong who had worked overtime in temperatures of minus 20 degrees Celsius to increase supply.
He asked the miners to produce as much coal as they could safely to provide more fuel for generating electricity amid a nation-wide shortage.
"Disaster-hit areas need coal and the power plants need coal," Hu told administrators and workers of the mine, saying that coal supply had been a crucial part in fighting the snow disaster.
"I pay an early New Year call here to those miners who will not go back home to celebrate the Spring Festival for the coal production," Hu said loudly to the miners who responded with New Year greetings and applause.
Hu Jintao also visited Hudong station on a special railway linking coal mines in Datong to the Qinghuangdao Port near northeast China's Bohai Gulf.
In the monitoring room of the station, Hu was told that the daily average transport volume for coal in recent days was 960,000 tons, 15.6 percent over the same period last year. The station was striving to achieve a daily volume of 1 million tons.
At the side of a facility that transfers coal to vessels in Qinhuangdao Port, Hu told dockworkers to maintain all equipment in good condition and improve the efficiency of coal transportation to vessels.
"The southern areas were hit by heavy snows and ice. We must take the overall situation into consideration," Hu said, "I hope you can make more contributions to disaster relief in the southern areas."
Qinhuangdao Port is the busiest shipping port, which transfers coal for power generation from Shanxi Province to southern China by ship, with a special railway connecting Datong.
To maintain uninterrupted coal supplies, the port has been operating around the clock since the severe weather hit central and southern China.
As of Sunday, 17 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions had suffered blackouts, and power grids in central Hubei and Hunan provinces and southern Guizhou and Guangdong provinces had been seriously damaged.
The blackouts shut down electrified railways in those areas as well.
More than 30 million people have been affected by the power shortages, many of them stranded en route home for Spring Festival family reunions.
The snow, the heaviest in a decade in many places, has been falling in China's east, central and southern regions since Jan. 10, causing deaths, structural collapses, blackouts, highway closures and crop destruction.
(Xinhua News Agency February 1, 2008)