Premier Wen Jiabao has rushed to Hunan to help direct disaster relief work in the central Chinese province, which has been hit by appalling weather.
Wen flew out of Beijing on Monday night, but had to land at Tianhe Airport in neighboring Hubei Province because of the bad weather in Hunan, before completing his journey by train. He arrived in Changsha city, Hunan's capital, on Tuesday morning.
Upon his arrival, he immediately held meetings with officials from Hunan and those in departments under the State Council on how to combat ice and snow and how to better direct the disaster relief work.
The snow, the heaviest in a decade in many places, has been falling in east, central and south China for more than a fortnight. It has caused deaths, structural collapse, blackouts, highway closures and crop destruction.
A total of 24 people had died around the country because of the weather since Jan. 10, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said on Monday.
More than 77.86 million people had been affected by the snow in 14 provinces, including Anhui, Jiangxi, Hubei and Hunan, by 2:00 p.m. on Monday, according to the ministry.
Hunan and the western Guizhou Province have been the worst hit by the unprecedented spell of severe weather.
The China Meteorological Administration (CMA) issued a red alert early on Monday for severe snowstorms in the central and eastern parts of the country.
It warned local governments and departments to prepare for more bad weather. Transport, railway, electricity and communication departments were advised to prepare post-snow clean-ups, while suggesting citizens in these areas should avoid unnecessary outdoor activities.
(Xinhua News Agency January 29, 2008)