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China's big freeze affecting 105 million people: state media

31 January, 2008

Street sweepers clear snow in Shanghai, on January 29. China's big freeze has affected 105 million people, leaving at least 64 dead and millions short

BEIJING (AFP) - China's big freeze has affected 105 million people, leaving at least 64 dead and millions short of basic goods and sowing havoc on the transport and power networks, state media said.

The mounting toll caused by the severest winter weather for hald a century includes 2.5 million people who have been evacuated from the worst-hit areas, or are awaiting evacuation, the China Daily said.

More misery was expected in broad areas of central, southern and eastern China as the conditions are forecast to continue through the end of the week, according to the state meteorological agency.

With masses of angry and desperate travellers battling to get home for the Lunar New Year holiday next week, the government has taken the extraordinary step of asking millions of migrant workers to forego an annual ritual that is typically the only bright spot in a life of hard toil and low pay.

"For the sake of their safety, and relieving the stress on transport, I advise migrant workers to stay in the cities where they work," Zheng Guoguang, chief of the China Meteorological Administration, told the China Daily.

"In normal weather conditions, it would take at least one week for full restoration of power supplies. Against the current backdrop, it will take far longer for electricity supplies, and road and railway traffic to return to normal."

Although air, rail, and road traffic in many areas has slowly begun moving again, transport in large swathes of the affected regions remained virtually frozen.

Twelve national highways across six provinces remained impassable in some areas late Wednesday, causing huge traffic jams, Xinhua news agency said.

In the southern city of Guangzhou, about 800,000 people were stranded amid continued chaos on road and rail networks leading north.

The government Wednesday ordered troops to join relief efforts following mounting reports of water shortages and spiking food prices.

At least 30 million people have affected so far by rolling power blackouts as the weather has strangled distribution of coal, source of three-quarters of China's energy, the government has said.


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