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Last Updated: Friday, 1 February 2008, 11:22 GMT
China freeze 'has cost billions'
Military police perform crowd control at Shanghai station on 31 January 2008
Some trains are operating again but crowds remain at stations

China's worst snow storms in half a century have caused 54bn yuan (3.8bn) of damage, officials have announced.

Sixty people are now known to have died as a result of the severe weather, which began three weeks ago.

Millions of travellers remain stranded as they try to get home for next week's Lunar New Year holiday, with the army helping to clear railways and roads.

Meanwhile, the authorities have ordered coal production to be increased and imposed emergency price controls.

With millions reported to be without water and electricity, the government is working hard to convince people it is in control of the situation.

People cycle through snow-hit streets in Nanjing on 31 January 2008

On Wednesday, President Hu Jintao visited a coal mine in Shanxi province.

"Disaster-hit areas need coal and the power plants need coal," he told miners, according to Xinhua news agency.

"I pay an early New Year call here to those miners who will not go back home to celebrate the Spring Festival for [the sake of] the coal production," he said.

'How long?'

Snow has been falling in central and southern regions for three weeks.

Officials have warned that many could face food shortages in the future as a result of wrecked winter crops.

Chinese travellers are trying to get home for the Lunar New Year

It has also hit the busiest travelling season - the run-up to Lunar New Year on 7 February.

People, many of them poor migrant workers, have been stranded at stations across the region, while major roads have also been blocked.

On Wednesday trains began operating out of Guangzhou, where hundreds of thousands of people have been stranded.

Daily passenger capacity was up to 400,000, official media said, but huge crowds still remained at the station.

Graphic designer Cheng Xia, 28, was not optimistic.

"The weather is still bad," he told the Associated Press news agency. "Once I get on a train, who knows how long I'll be on it? We could get stuck for three or four days."

Officials had urged people not travel - a plea that many seemed to be heeding, Xinhua news agency said.

Still more snow was expected over the next few days and temperatures were expected to remain below freezing, forecasters said.

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SEE ALSO
Transport chaos in snow-hit China
29 Jan 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Chinese freeze strands thousands
28 Jan 08 |  Asia-Pacific
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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