China battles winter weather chaos ahead of holiday|
Sun Jan 27, 2008 4:36am EST
By Chris Buckley
BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Sunday ordered urgent steps to fight transport
chaos and threats to energy and food supplies caused by brutal winter weather
that forecasters said will continue as the nation heads into a major
The cold spell has lashed central, eastern and southern China in recent days,
bringing heavy snow and sleet to provinces used to milder winters. Dozens of
people have died, and many roads, railways and airports have been paralyzed.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said the chaotic weather was threatening lives and
straining supplies of fresh food, coal, oil and electricity ahead of holidays
marking the Lunar New Year, which starts on February 7.
"Urgently mobilize and work as one to wage this tough battle against
disaster," Wen told officials, according to the transcript on the government Web
site (www.gov.cn). "Ensure that the people enjoy a joyful and auspicious Spring
He and other senior officials announced steps aimed at softening the economic
blow from the bad weather.
Provinces must share coal and electricity, officials would waive some
transport charges for farm goods and they would keep a close eye on price hikes.
Train services must also be able to cope with tens of millions of passengers
heading home for the holidays, while more coal must be found for power
But the government's chief weather forecaster, Yang Guiming, said the harsh
weather was likely to continue, the China News Service reported.
"There's no room for optimism about this abnormal rain and snow weather
across the country over the next week," he said.
And Wen warned that energy strains could also worsen as power plants' coal
reserves run dangerously low.
"The tense situation for coal, electricity, oil and transport nationwide is
continuing to develop and could intensify," Wen said. "The most difficult phase
has not passed."
Ma Kai, the head of the National Development and Reform Commission, which
steers industrial policy, ordered officials to "create conditions" for reopening
small coal mines earlier shut down and "reorganized" for safety violations.
DEATHS, SHUTDOWNS AND CROWDS
The snow and ice have collapsed homes, snapped power lines and destroyed
In mountainous Guizhou province in the southwest, three people had been
killed, 877 buildings had collapsed and there had been widespread blackouts,
Xinhua news agency reported.
In Hunan province in the south, accidents sparked by icy rains and cold had
killed five people. In neighboring Hubei province, six died on Saturday night in
a collision between a truck and a long-distance bus that might have been at
least partly due to icy roads.
Several regional airports were shut by the weather, including at Nanjing,
capital of Jiangsu province. State television also showed highways crowded with
trucks paralyzed by the snow.
The national forecasting authority said the freezing weather would continue
to pummel provinces from west to east over the next week, with heavy snows
possible in Shanghai and neighboring provinces -- powerhouses of business and
On Sunday, Chinese television news showed railway stations choked with tens
of thousands of delayed passengers.
In Guangzhou in the far south, more than 100,000 people crammed the main
railway station, many of them rural migrant workers eager to return home for the
traditional Lunar New Year holiday.
Police closed roads around the station and pulled passengers from the
dangerous crush of people inside, the Guangzhou Daily reported.
"Safety is always the top priority," Premier Wen said earlier.
The bad weather also threatens to stoke price rises that already had the
government worried. Wen warned officials and businesses to keep prices in check
as consumer demand rises for the Lunar New Year celebrations.
(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by David Fogarty)
Original article: Reuters
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