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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 February 2008, 05:02 GMT
Holidays begin in snow-hit China
A woman prays at a village in Pingshi, Guangdong province, on 5 February 2008
Parts of China have seen the heaviest snow in 50 years
Chinese authorities are working to restore power and water to millions, as the snow-hit country begins the week-long Lunar New Year festival.

More than 3,000 electricians and troops are repairing power lines in Chenzhou city, where four million residents have been without electricity for 12 days.

The worst snow in decades has brought chaos to vast areas of central and southern provinces.

But transport gridlock is easing as roads and railways are being cleared.

The snow has coincided with China's busiest travelling season, with millions of people trying to return home for the festive week.

Chinese New Year actually falls on Thursday, but people traditionally begin celebrations on New Year's Eve.

Many of those who had been stranded are now on their way home, according to state media, but millions more have given up on the idea of travelling.

Power supply

Dozens of people have been killed in accidents since the snow began on 10 January. Thousands of houses have collapsed and huge swathes of agricultural land have been destroyed.

Trucks carry coal to provinces hit by power failures on 4 February 2008

Power lines have been downed in some areas, while surging demand for electricity and delayed deliveries of coal have caused blackouts in others.

Worst hit has been Chenzhou city in Hunan province, where about 1,000 pylons have collapsed under the weight of the snow.

Prices for candles and charcoal have surged as residents struggle to keep warm.

Huang Qiang of the Hunan Electric Power Company said that services would resume soon.

"Parts of the power lines have been recovered, and power supply will restore gradually for citizens in Chenzhou starting today," he said.

But several counties across four provinces reportedly remain without power..

Widespread transport chaos had now eased, state media said. All but two airports were open on Tuesday, a spokesman said, although some flights were cancelled.

In Guangzhou, where numbers of stranded passengers were highest, railway service is back to normal, and crowds at stations around the country are much reduced, according to Xinhua news agency.

The weather is estimated to have affected more than 100m people and has so far caused 54bn yuan (3.8bn) of damage.

A Beijing resident on the New Year celebrations

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