Snow, rain play havoc with travel

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Snow, rain play havoc with travel

Chen Mingshu (left), 47, takes his two-year-old granddaughter back to their hometown in Sichuan province, at the Beijing Railway Station Sunday. [Wang Jing/China Daily]

The weather refused to cooperate yesterday as the country entered its peak traffic season with millions on the move home.

Over the weekend, snow and heavy fog hit northern China, closing expressways and delaying flights. And meteorologists are forecasting bad weather to sweep across the country in the week ahead.

About 2.5 billion trips are expected to be made over the 40 days from Jan 30, as people rush home for family reunions and celebrations during the week-long Spring Festival holiday, which starts Saturday, the eve of the lunar New Year.

The transport authority reported that traffic began to surge yesterday, burdening the country's railways, roads and airports.

The Ministry of Railways said some 5 million passengers took trains on Saturday and yesterday. Railway stations in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou handled more than 200,000 passengers each day.

Some 63 million people took long-distance buses and ships home each day over the weekend, the Ministry of Transport estimated.

The number of passengers taking flights also grew so fast yesterday that belts transporting luggage from a check-in counter in Terminal 3 at the Beijing Capital International Airport broke down.

"The straps became overheated and produced smoke around 1 pm. But the trouble was soon solved and we opened new check-in counters to handle passengers. Order has resumed at the terminal," an airport spokesman said.

Ten freeways were closed yesterday because of snow and fog in Shanxi, Hebei, Henan and Liaoning provinces, causing delays at some long-distance bus stations, state broadcaster CCTV reported yesterday.

Due to the shut-down, Beijing's Liuliqiao bus hub said some buses from Hebei and Shanxi provinces to Beijing would be delayed for three to four hours.

Snow and ice caused at least 21 flights to be canceled and 64 flights delayed at the Beijing Capital International Airport by noon yesterday.

Meteorologists warned that such delays at bus stations and airports could only get worse because of a strong cold snap that will hit most parts of the country this week.

Qiao Lin, chief forecaster with the National Meteorological Center, said from today to Friday, rain and fog will hit central and east China, while lingering snowstorms will sweep northeast and north China.

On Thursday and Friday, freezing rain, which caused chaos during the Spring Festival traffic peak in 2008, is likely to hit Guizhou and the northwestern part of the area to the south of the Yangtze River. Most parts of the country will experience a temperature drop of 6 to 8 C, he said.

As the period coincides with the busiest time for the country's transport system, he warned travelers and transport departments to be prepared for bad weather.

"Nothing can be done about this weather. All I can do now is pray," said Li Zhenzhen, who works in Beijing and plans to leave for home in Henan province on Friday.

Wang Yongping, spokesman for the Ministry of Railways, said that the ministry has urged local bureaus to strengthen check-ups on locomotives, trains, tracks and the electricity network in a bid to ensure no breakdowns in the abnormal weather. Emergency plans will also be implemented during the bad weather.

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