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China kicks off Spring Festival holiday
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The world's most populous nation began its week-long Lunar New Year holiday on Wednesday, but hundreds of thousands of people will probably spend the biggest festival of the year in the cold and dark.


Currently, more than 3,000 people, including electricians, soldiers and armed police are struggling to repair power lines damaged by prolonged snow, rain and sleet to restore the power supply for Chenzhou, a city of about 4 million in central China's Hunan Province, which started its 12th day of power blackouts and water cuts on Wednesday.


Wednesday marks the eve of Lunar New Year, known as Spring Festival, the most important festival for family gatherings in China with a population of 1.3 billion.


"Parts of the power lines have been recovered, and power supply will restore gradually for citizens in Chenzhou starting today," said Huang Qiang, vice general manager of the Hunan Electric Power Company under the State Grid Corporation of China.


But power service is not expected to be resumed by 6:00 p.m. Wednesday, in eight counties, including Guiyang, Jiahe in Hunan Province, Zixi, Lichuan, Yihuang and Le'an in Jiangxi Province, Pingtang in Guizhou Province and Ziyuan in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the disaster relief and emergency command center under the State Council, China's cabinet, said in a statement late Tuesday.


Freak winter weather featuring prolonged snow, rain and sleet since mid-January in China's eastern, central and southern regions has downed power lines, covered roads with thick ice, brought trains, buses and planes to standstill and stranded millions of people.


The snow havoc, the worst in five decades, and even in a century in few areas, has led to deaths, structural collapses, blackouts, accidents, transport problems and livestock and crop losses in 19 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.


More than 100 million people have been affected, and at least 60 people have died in the freezing weather.


(Xinhua News Agency February 6, 2008)

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