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Last Updated: Monday, 28 January 2008, 11:49 GMT
Chinese freeze strands thousands
Crowds at Guangzhou station, 28/01
Temporary shelters have been arranged at Guangzhou station
Severe winter weather is causing travel chaos in China as tens of millions of people try to return home for the country's main holiday, Lunar New Year.

At least 170,000 people are stuck at the railway station in Guangzhou, in the southern Guangdong province, where most trains have been cancelled.

Many thousands are stranded because of blocked roads, with some areas running out of salt to spread on icy surfaces.

More than 20 people have been killed since the severe weather began.

Snow and sleet have affected central, eastern and southern China - regions used to milder winters. More heavy snow is forecast to fall.

Motorways as well as railways have been brought to a standstill - especially in the east.

Several regional airports have been closed, and many provinces are enduring reduced power supplies.

Last year two billion journeys were made over the New Year period, making it the largest mass migration on the planet.

The BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Shanghai says conditions on overcrowded buses and trains are terrible over the holiday period even without the severe weather.

'Work as one'

A steady flow of travellers has continued to arrive a Guangzhou station despite a power failure in neighbouring Hunan province causing most trains to be cancelled.

After three days of waiting for his train to the south-western city of Chongqing, Liu Si told Reuters news agency he had little hope it would leave any time soon.

Woman in Lanzhou, 27/01
Some provinces have endured their worst snow in a decade

"I've been in Guangdong a decade, I've never spent a Chinese New Year here. This year I might have to. It just won't feel right."

Guangzhou's authorities have arranged temporary shelters in schools and other public buildings for passengers stuck at the station.

The civil affairs ministry said the weather had affected 67 million people and had already cost 18.2bn yuan ($2.5bn; 1.3bn).

Earlier, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said the weather was threatening lives and disrupting supplies of fresh food, oil and gas ahead of the New Year, and he warned worse could come.

"Urgently mobilise and work as one to wage this tough battle against disaster," he told officials, according to a transcript on the official government website.

"Ensure that the people enjoy a joyful and auspicious Spring Festival."

Brutal conditions in recent days have led to homes collapsing across China. Power lines have snapped and crops have been destroyed.

Parts of China have suffered their worst snowfalls in more than a decade.

SEE ALSO
In pictures: China weather chaos
28 Jan 08 |  In Pictures
Snow hampers China New Year plans
27 Jan 08 |  Asia-Pacific
China in power shortage warning
23 Jan 08 |  Europe
Severe snow hits central China
22 Jan 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: China
30 Nov 07 |  Country profiles

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