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Ice still blocking 12 national highways
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Twelve national highways in six provinces remained impassable because of ice on Wednesday afternoon, causing major congestion, according to the latest report from the Ministry of Public Security.

Through 4:30 PM on Wednesday, highways in regions such as central Hunan and Hubei, southeastern Anhui, southwestern Guizhou, southern Guangdong and northwestern Shaanxi Provinces remained impassable, the report said.

Highway congestion in Hubei Province involved about 20 kilometers of road. Slow traffic was reported around service stations where long lines around gas pumps were blocked by icy roads.

Most highways in Guizhou and the northern part of Anhui were closed. Highways in Hunan, Hubei and Jiangxi were mostly back to normal, with a few sections still experiencing slow traffic.

As for railways, the report said that all stranded passenger trains in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, had started their journeys although most were behind schedule. It said that 27 trains were less than 10 hours late, 12 trains were running 10-20 hours late and six trains were delayed by 20 to 30 hours.

Fourteen trains in Zhengzhou, the capital of central Henan Province -- a major national traffic hub -- were behind schedule, it said. However, it added that no passengers were stranded at stations in the area.

The airport in Changsha, Hunan's provincial capital, closed again on Wednesday morning, leaving about 1,000 passengers stranded, it said.

The number of stranded passengers eased somewhat at the airport in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong, where about 10,000 passengers were still trying to leave. Planes were once again being allowed to take off and land.

The ministry said that no major crimes or public security incidents had occurred during the storm disruptions. "Up to now, the order of train stations, docks and airports was maintained at normal level" and passengers remained calm, it said.

The fire control brigade in Hunan helped more than 21,000 disaster-hit people, assisted the evacuation of more than 1,700 stranded vehicles and cleared more than 20 kilometers of snowy and icy roads.

Unusual freezing weather, heavy snow, sleet and ice rain have hit 17 provinces and disrupted the plans of millions of people on their way home to celebrate the Spring Festival.

The Ministry of Railways predicted that the railways would carry an unprecedented 178.6 million passengers during the travel peak from Jan. 23 to March 2, up from 156 million last year.

The winter storm had claimed 38 lives by Wednesday, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

(Xinhua News Agency January 31, 2008)

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