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Last Updated: Monday, 4 February 2008, 11:20 GMT
China 'not ready' for snow crisis
Armoured cars help clear snow and ice from a highway in Hunan province
Temperatures remain below freezing in parts of China

Chinese weather experts have admitted that they were not properly prepared for the snow storms that have left hundreds of thousands stranded.

The cold weather seen in recent weeks has been the worst to hit central and southern provinces in decades.

Officials have blamed freak conditions, but on Monday the head of the China's meteorological office said "we did not make enough preparation".

About 100m people have been affected, with damage set at 54bn yuan (3.8bn).

According to a BBC correspondent in Beijing, Michael Bristow, there are few facilities in the south to deal with icy roads, and power lines are too thin to cope with too much snow and ice.

New Year travel chaos

The current cold snap started nearly four weeks ago.

Freezing temperatures have brought snow, ice, sleet and fog to many areas of southern China - some of which are used to just four or five days of freezing temperatures a year.

Troops are currently working to clear blocked roads and rail lines to enable people to travel, but more snow is expected and heavy fog hit central provinces on Monday, adding to transport woes.

A soldier talks to passengers waiting at Guangzhou station

China's leaders have been working hard to convince people that they are tackling the situation in order to prevent frustration boiling over into unrest.

"We have to be clear minded that the inclement weather and severe disaster will continue to plague certain regions in the south," the Politburo said on Sunday.

But the head of the Chinese Meteorological Administration, Zheng Guoguang, admitted at a press conference on Monday that officials "did not expect such long-term, widespread and harsh weather conditions".

"In northern China we have quite a good emergency plan to cope with unusual weather conditions. But in southern parts of China, the mechanism and emergency plan to cope with such weather needs to be improved," he said

While some may see Mr Zheng's comments as a welcome sign of openness, our correspondent says the news will hardly go down well with travellers who are desperately trying to get home for the Lunar New Year holiday, which begins on 7 February.

Hundreds of thousands of people, many of them migrant workers, have spent days waiting at packed stations or trapped on blocked roads.

A woman was also killed in a stampede at Guangzhou station, which has seen the worst of the crowding.

About 1.3 million army troops and reservists have now been deployed to help the relief effort.

Officials have warned of future food shortages because of damaged winter crops.

SEE ALSO
China warns of more bad weather
02 Feb 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Snow-hit China has 'new priority'
01 Feb 08 |  Asia-Pacific
China freeze 'has cost billions'
01 Feb 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Transport chaos in snow-hit China
29 Jan 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Chinese freeze strands thousands
28 Jan 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: China
30 Nov 07 |  Country profiles

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