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China Mobile: Weather disrupts services in 20 provinces
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The heavy snow that has hit China in recent weeks disrupted mobile phone services in 20 provinces, China Mobile said on Sunday.

The weather caused power failures at 28,000 base stations in the network of the country's top wireless operator. About 169,000 employees and 78,000 vehicles had been dispatched to repair the stations. By Sunday, workers had restored power at 17,000 base stations, the company said.

Chairman Wang Jianzhou said the company would do everything in its power to deal with the problem and ensure services during the Spring Festival, which begins on Wednesday.

"Snow and rain continue, so do our mobile services. Air temperatures go down but the service quality will not," a company statement said.

It added the company would step up maintenance and repair of its stations at all transport facilities to ensure unblocked services during peak times.

It also called on local subsidiaries in Guangdong Province, where most migrant workers were stranded, and Anhui, Hunan, Jiangxi, Hubei, Henan and Sichuan provinces where those same workers originally came from, to establish emergency plans.

The worst snow in five decades has killed at least 60 nationwide and left multi-millions facing a cold, dark Lunar New Year holiday. The cold snap could last until Feb. 9, according to the Central Meteorological Station.

Since Jan. 29, China Mobile had added 10 yuan (about 1.4 U.S. dollars) to the account of every mobile phone user stranded in Guangzhou to help them contact their families. This can buy about 10 minutes of long-distance calls or 100 text messages.

Approximately 11.91 million telecom users, or 60 percent of the total who had an interruption in communication links because of snow damage, had their service restored as of Jan. 30, according to the Ministry of Industry Information (MII).

The MII said on Thursday that owing to the extreme weather, more than 16,000 mobile telecom base stations for relay lines had so far discontinued services. In addition, 46,000 electrical wire poles had collapsed and 9,678 kilometers of telecom links had been destroyed.

All these events affected 19.28 million telecom users and caused a loss of nearly 150 million yuan.

Areas with the worst breakdowns in telecom links included Guizhou, Hunan and Jiangxi provinces.

Trains carried more than 120,000 stranded passengers out of Guangzhou between 6:00 p.m. Saturday and 6:00 a.m. Sunday. As of Sunday, about 1 million people were still stranded at the Guangzhou Railway Station after snow caused a power failure in Hunan Province, a major trunk route between Beijing and Guangzhou.

The bad weather could prevent 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 4, 2008)

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