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Chinese travelers gradually get back on track

GUANGZHOU, China (CNN) — His eyes nearly in tears from the crush of fellow travelers at Guangzhou’s train station, Hong Tao said things were much better on Sunday, after days of waiting for a train to his home in Hubei province.

I think it’s fine today, everything is going smoothly, the 28-year-old said. I thought it would be really crowded but it has turned out to be OK.

Chinese authorities say they expect 1.3 million people to travel out of Guangzhou’s train station over the next few days, as they rush to get home by Wednesday, the eve of Lunar New Year.

Hong’s optimism may have been helped by the blue skies that emerged over Guangzhou on Sunday for the first time in a week.

Last week, a rare winter storm paralyzed China’s transportation system as millions tried to get home to celebrate the holiday — the only chance for many migrant workers to see their families all year. Watch travelers struggle to get home

China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said Friday that 95 percent of rail traffic had returned to normal. But Guangzhou’s train station remained packed with a backlog of hundreds of thousands of travelers hoping to get home for the holiday.

The general sense of frustrated rage of three or four days ago has subsided as Chinese forces gained control of the situation at the station in Guangzhou, the capital of southern Guangdong province, CNN’s Hugh Riminton said Sunday.

There are so many police and also a lot of soldiers, I think they’ve done a great job, said traveler Hu Yue Gu.

A young woman was trampled in a stampede at the train station Friday, and later died of her injuries, according to Xinhua. Video of the situation on Friday showed crowds of people screaming, elbowing each other, in some cases sobbing and collapsing in the rush to get a slot on a train.

Police officers tried to keep order. One officer lifted a small child above the crowd as the child’s mother clutched the officer’s coat. A woman who fainted was carried over the mob to receive medical help.

China Sunday announced it has deployed over 300,000 People’s Liberation Army forces to southern China in what it described as a war on wintry weather.

Since trains were halted last week, some 483,000 passengers have been able to get on trains at Guangzhou, but not without going through a series of choke points that take hours to clear.

If you’re trying to get on a train, you must negotiate each ‘choke point’ — first you approach a barricade where you are held along with thousands of others for about an hour, Riminton said. When that stage clears, you’re squeezed through a gap where you wait at another barricade for another hour. Then, progressively, you are moved closer and closer to where the trains are.

The winter storm — China’s worst in 50 years — has already been blamed for the deaths of at least 63 people around the country, including 25 who died when a bus plunged off a slippery mountain road in the southwestern Guizhou province. The government has reported $7.5 billion in damage from the storm.

The government also announced a $700 million plan to help farmers whose crops have been destroyed.

After transportation around the country began to be shut down Saturday, authorities called on millions of migrant workers to forgo their annual Lunar New Year trip home.

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 Guogang, chief of the China Meteorological Administration, told the state newspaper, China Daily.

But for an estimated 200 million people, the annual trek is a critical opportunity to see family — and the vast majority travel by train.

The storm spiraled into a crisis in some areas, with authorities worried about potential loss of critical supplies. Some have already lost power, and local authorities say diesel and even rice could run out in a matter of days.
Chinese travelers gradually get back on track – found here.


February 4, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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