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February 12, 2010

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Weather gives holiday cold shoulder

HEAVY snow and freezing conditions forced more airports and highways in China to close yesterday, just two days before the Spring Festival.

Millions of travelers already on the road are hoping to arrive home by Chinese New Year's Eve tomorrow.

Meteorological authorities yesterday forecast more blizzards to hit more areas, affecting nine provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities in northern, western and eastern regions.

The cold snap would last three days, they said.

Hefei, capital of east China's Anhui Province, had to close its airport and suspend 95 percent of long-distance coach services yesterday morning, as overnight snow turned to ice, making runways and roads hazardous.

Many bus terminals turned on heating and provided hot drinking water for more than 3,000 stranded passengers.

In north China's Shanxi Province, police used their vehicles to escort passenger buses along sections of closed highways, so people could return home for the festival.

Train rush

The heavy snow that started on Tuesday night forced the closure of six expressways in Shanxi, halting inter-provincial bus services and stranding thousands of passengers at a coach terminal in the provincial capital of Taiyuan on Wednesday.

"I prefer going by bus than train, because trains are very crowded and slow," said Yan Jing, a passenger who finally gave up waiting for a bus on Wednesday and instead headed to the city's railway station to try her luck there like thousands of others.

Some bus services in Jinan, capital of eastern Shandong Province, were closed too.

"Bus traffic will be reduced due to the heavy snow," said Zhang Zihua, spokeswoman for Jinan Coach Station.

She said bus services in Jinan carried 240,000 passengers on Wednesday, almost the station's capacity.

She said all major highways in the province were closed yesterday. Some long-distance bus services in the province were operating, however, as they took alternative routes.

In northeast China's Liaoning Province, an ice-breaker failed on Wednesday to open a passage to Juhua Island, where sea ferry services have been disrupted by ice since December 31.

Food prepared

The island, with a population of 3,200, is the largest in Liaodong Bay, and is separated by a 7.5-kilometer gulf from Xingcheng City in Liaoning. The island has drinking water and residents have prepared food for the winter.

Local authorities had hoped to send food and necessities to the islanders before the Spring Festival.

The country's only ice- breaking vessel that could do the job, Snow Dragon, is being used in an Antarctic exploration mission.

Provincial marine and fisheries officials said the ice in Liaodong Bay, the worst in 40 years, was still expanding.

In northwest China's Shaanxi Province, expressways from the capital city Xi'an to eastern Shandong, Fujian and Zhejiang provinces and northern Hebei, Henan, and Shanxi provinces were all closed after snow started falling on Wednesday night.

The freezing weather stranded hundreds of people at Xi'an's Sanfuwan bus terminal yesterday morning.

Cheng Congjun, head of the bus terminal, said the station had prepared free "housing" for the stranded passengers.

"We also sent 10 extra tourist buses to ensure all passengers will make it home for the holiday," Cheng said.

"The freezing temperatures are an absolute bummer for holiday travelers like us, especially when we get stranded at the station with large amounts of luggage and have to wait in the cold," a passenger said at the bus station.


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