updated 1/21/2008 10:56:30 PM ET 2008-01-22T03:56:30

Heavy snow in a central Chinese province caused travel chaos Tuesday, delaying 300,000 people hoping to return to their families for the traditional Lunar New Year holiday, state media said.

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Houses collapsed, roads became impassable and crops were destroyed in Hubei province after the heaviest snowfall there in 16 years Monday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

More than 7.8 million people have been affected, Xinhua said, citing a local official.

Half of the province's roads have been closed since Saturday and nearly 9,000 long-distance buses scheduled to leave Wuhan city, the capital of the province, were canceled, it said.

Disaster relief work is under way in Hubei, including evacuations and provisions of clothing and money, it said.

The Chinese New Year traveling season has begun, straining China's railways and roads, as tens of millions of people return home to their families across the country to celebrate the week-long holiday starting Feb. 6.

Elsewhere, roads in the north of Anhui province in eastern China were also closed, Xinhua said. In western Tibet, 131 people were rescued from snowy highways in Ngari prefecture, but more could be trapped, according to local officials.

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