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160,000 passengers stranded by heavy snow
By Cao Desheng (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-01-21 07:00

Train passengers heading home for the Lunar New Year holiday were still stranded in Beijing on Friday after heavy snowfall in Central China paralyzed a major north- south railway.

By 5 pm on Friday, 19 southern-bound trains to Chengdu, Kunming and Chongqing had been delayed because of ice and 10 centimetres of snow in Zhengzhou, a key transport hub on the Beijing-Guangzhou railway in Henan Province.

Passengers wait for trains at the Beijing West Railway Station in the Chinese capital Thursday January 19, 2006. More than 100,000 passengers were stranded due to heavy snow on the Beijing-Guangzhou line, adding pressure to the already crowded station. [Xinhua]

Tens of thousands of passengers were packed in the Beijing West Railway Station while flocks of people were still flooding in. The waiting hall and the square in front of the station were full of passengers.

To avoid chaos, passengers were allowed into the waiting hall only 6 hours before the departure time. Hundreds of police were called in to maintain order and security.

The snow, which began on Wednesday morning in Central and South China, has caused chaos during one of the busiest travel seasons.

About 160,000 train passengers were delayed on Thursday nationwide, 100,000 of them stranded in Beijing and 60,000 in Zhengzhou.

Jin Xiumei, a noodle restaurant owner who lives near the Beijing West Railway Station, was anxious waiting for the arrival of her daughters at the station on Friday.

"They took the train from Anhui on Thursday night, but the railway station said it will be delayed for 23 hours because of the snow," Jin said.

She was worried about the 13-year-old twin daughters as they "were too young to tolerate the long, drawn-out journey."

The Ministry of Railways launched a red emergency scheme on Friday to urge railway departments to try their best to ensure passengers' safe and smooth travel.

Thousands of railway workers in affected areas were mobilized to clean up snow and ice on the railways, the ministry said.

According to weather forecast, the snowy and rainy weather in central and eastern China is expected to end on Saturday.

(China Daily 01/21/2006 page1)

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