China's power coal stockpiles have stopped shrinking and started to rally steadily as a result of heightened output and expedited rail transport, Xinhua learned on Tuesday from the State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC).
Power coal reserves reached 24.06 million tons on Sunday, up 2.99 million tons from the low point on January 28, SERC supervisor Tan Rongyao said.
Full or partial electricity service has been resumed in 40 of the 50 cities and counties in southwestern Guizhou Province that have been cut off for days.
Transmission wires paralyzed by blizzards and a deep freeze in the worst-hit provinces of Hunan and Jiangxi have restored 53 percent and 60 percent of their normal electrical loads, respectively, he said.
In another development, the 355 power plants that depend on railways for coal supplies have reported an aggregate stockpile of 2.64 million tons, enough for 10.8 days. The number of power plants with coal reserves of less than three days dropped from 65 to 34, said the Ministry of Railways.
Daily shipments during the seven-day Spring Festival holiday, which begins on Wednesday, must stay above 42,819 rail container trucks, said the ministry.
The latest directive from the government's emergency command center ordered that electric lines of or below 220 kilovolts be restored before the Spring Festival to secure the power supply for residential purposes.
Transmission lines that serve critical infrastructure -- railways, utilities (gas, water and telecommunications), finance, energy and manufacturing -- should get preferential repairs.
The command center ordered power plants to keep a minimum 10-day coal stockpile; otherwise, generation and consumption must be rationed. Power supplies for coal mines and chemical enterprises must not be cut off, it said.
At a meeting late on Monday, the center called on everyone to conserve electricity, including in Spring Festival decorations. Chinese like to light up their houses on Spring Festival Eve to dispel Nian, a legendary man-eating beast whose name sounds like the Mandarin word for "year".
With the gradual recovery of railway, expressway and air traffic and clear weather forecast for most of China during the Lunar New Year holiday, the command center urged relevant departments to get ready for post-disaster reconstruction. Home rebuilding, rebuilding livestock herds and restoring farming would get priority, it said.
The ministries of civil affairs and finance have allocated 204 million yuan ($28.33 million) to bankroll house repairs in Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi, Anhui, Guizhou and Sichuan provinces, and Guangzi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
Emergency rescues were continuing even as the damage to housing was being calculated, Ministry of Civil Affairs officials said.