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Snowfall takes toll on city
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Cao Juan does not yet know, but his parents are making sure their baby boy never forgets how they celebrated his first month on Saturday, the 10th day the city of Chenzhou in Hunan province has seen widespread disruption to power and water supplies.

The infant's parents nicknamed him Lele, or "Happy", to mark how the life of the small family has been brightened by its newest member even as it depends on candlelight and coal briquettes to fend off the piercing winter cold.

Temperatures in their apartment plunged below 0 C more than a week ago.

Lele's father, Cao Jian, who works in the advertising department of a newspaper, told China Daily yesterday he is also thankful he has plenty of spare food as presents for the mother and child from friends and relatives.

Cao Shujian, a student in Chenzhou, Hunan province, does his homework under candlelight on Saturday. Electricity and water supplies have been disrupted due to the harsh weather.

Soldiers mobilized to aid in relief efforts come to the Caos' neighborhood twice a day to distribute free water - a bucket for every household each time. That is also the only time Cao Jian leaves his home.

Other times, says the father, he spends his every moment with his family.

That does not mean he is oblivious to how the supply of food and necessities for the city's 4.6 million residents have been affected.

"The price for onions has hit 20 yuan (US$2.8) per half kg, 15 yuan for peppers and miscellaneous vegetables ... and about 5 yuan for each candle or coal briquette," he said.

"But there's nowhere to get these. Most supermarkets were emptied by customers days ago; the remaining places either don't dare open their doors all day for fear of not being able to meet demand or because they just have little to sell. Even the small vendors want to keep the stuff to themselves now."

Heavy snowfall cut off power supply and telecommunications links, and burst water pipes in the city during the first few days of the ongoing nationwide snowstorms, China's worst in decades. Power and water supply resume for an hour or so every now and then, Cao said.

"I live on the 4th floor, apartments like ours on the lower floors get more water than the higher floors," he said.

"Although we are busy working on some damaged power utility poles, more have been falling under the weight of the snow and ice. This has made power resumption still more difficult," said Xu Yun, a Hunan provincial power company official.

Electricity has been partially restored in the city, Xu said on Sunday, without elaborating.

About 5,000 workers have been repairing power lines in Chenzhou. Two employees of the Chendian International Development, the major power supplier in the city, died on the job and two others have been seriously injured.

(China Daily February 4, 2008)

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