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Snow blocks highways in Yunnan
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Consecutive snow and freezing weather have blocked about 14,000 km of highways in the southwestern province of Yunnan and more than 12,000 passengers were affected on Sunday alone by preliminary estimate, according to a spokesman of the provincial transport department.

Since late January, snow storms hit Yunnan, and in the northern part of the province, damaging roads seriously.

From Jan. 19 to Saturday, the interrupted roads have amounted to 14,000 km, including 265 km expressways and more than 5,000 km trunk roads.

The disaster left about 178,000 people and 20,000 motor vehicles stranded, and caused an economic loss of 154 million yuan (about 20.5 million U.S. dollars).

Snowy weather revisited the province on Thursday. Qujing, the second largest city in Yunnan, closed six highways, cancelled 42 coach routes and suspended operation of about 800 motor vehicles. Transport in other cities, including Zhaotong and Diqing, had also been affected by snows.

Local governments have sent food and water to the stranded drivers and passengers, and some of them have been transferred to government-provided shelters or homes of residents along the highways.

The provincial transport department has organized a repair contingent to ensure smooth road travel, especially the transport of important equipment and materials.

Workers sprayed salt and deicing agent to clear the road. However, the repairs were greatly hampered by the plateau climate, poor facilities and shortage of money. The governments of the snow-affected cities were required to ensure adequate supply of power, water, medicine, grain and vegetables. "We have taken effective measures to ensure the people, especially those with economic difficulties, to have enough food, winter clothes and a warm place to stay," said Yue Yuesheng, mayor of Qujing.

(Xinhua News Agency February 18, 2008)

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