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Cold snap disrupts festival travel rush

By WANG QIAN in Beijing and JU CHUANJIANG in Jinan | China Daily | Updated: 2013-02-06 02:32

This year's Spring Festival travel rush may prove a challenge for Chinese as bitterly cold weather is sweeping across the country, bringing dramatic temperature drops, heavy snow and strong winds, meteorologists said on Tuesday.

"The strong cold snap will bring a sudden temperature drop of up to 12 degrees in parts of the country, and frozen rain is expected in Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi and Guizhou provinces," said Chen Zhenlin, spokesman of the China Meteorological Administration.

While the southern part of the country is forecast to have a frozen and rainy Lunar New Year holiday from Saturday to Feb 15, northern parts of the country will see mild snows and winds, Chen said.

Cold weather has already snarled rush hour traffic and forced airports to suspend flights in some parts of northern China, including Beijing, Shandong province and Hebei province, which were hit by sudden snow on Tuesday.

Jinan International Airport, Jining Qufu Airport and Linyi International Airport in Shandong, and Handan Airport in Hebei were temporarily closed because of slippery runways.

"The snowfall is affecting passengers' travel plans, and we will make every effort to guarantee air traffic during the travel rush," said Wu Wanyuan, a press official at Shandong Aviation Group.

Jinan International Airport said that as of 2 pm on Tuesday, about 14 flights were canceled and 39 were delayed.

Tens of highways passing through Shandong, Jiangxi, Shanxi and Hebei provinces were temporarily closed due to slippery roads caused by snowfall since Monday evening, according to the Ministry of Transport.

The poor road conditions disrupted the travel plans of Xu Hang, who planned to drive home from Jinan to Liaocheng in Shandong on Tuesday.

"The sudden snow delayed my trip, and I will drive home on Wednesday," Xu said.

Beijing also issued an icy road alert on Tuesday to warn drivers to drive slowly because of the snow.

Rear-end accidents are climbing because of low visibility and slippery roads.

The Shanxi Traffic Administration Bureau said a rear-end chain reaction collision involving 25 vehicles occurred on Sunday evening because of icy roads, leaving four dead and 13 injured.

The Spring Festival travel rush lasts 40 days from Jan 26 to March 6, during which time more than 3.4 billion trips are expected to be made — including 225 million by rail and 3.1 billion by road — according to the National Development and Reform Commission.

According to Chen from CMA, a conference will be held on Thursday between the administration and weather-related departments including the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Railways to guarantee the smooth running of holiday travel.

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