10,000-car backup as ice shuts Chinese road

China Snow
China's attempts to clear ice off roads includes using tanks like this one in Anhui Province on Saturday. The idea is to break up the ice with the heavy weight of the tanks.Xinhua via AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Railway service inched back to normal Sunday in southern China, a day after one person died in a stampede by frustrated train passengers who were stranded for days because of snow ahead of an important holiday.

More than 10,000 vehicles were backed up on an icy section of a highway in central China's Hunan province, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The vehicles were backed up for nearly 45 miles, even though workers were removing ice from the roads Sunday, it said.

The freakish weather is now in its fourth week, throttling the country's densely populated central and eastern regions as tens of millions of travelers scramble to board trains and buses to return home for this month's Lunar New Year holiday.

The weather has ripped down power lines and disrupted trains and road transport. Damage has been estimated at $7.5 billion and at least 60 people have been killed, mostly in traffic accidents.

On Saturday, frustration boiled over among passengers stranded at the Guangzhou train station where a stampede to get on a train crushed Li Hongxia, a watch factory worker who was trying to get home to the central province of Hubei, Xinhua reported.

Parts of Hunan province already have been without electricity for days and people have been stranded at snow and wind-swept train stations. The provincial weather bureau has forecast more snow for Monday and Tuesday.

Hunan, like many temperate parts of China, has little experience of snow. Houses are poorly insulated and many communities lack snowplows and other winter equipment.

While central parts of the country were struggling to cope with the weather, Xinhua said rail service in Guangzhou, the capital of southern Guangdong province, began to return to normal, with 100 trains scheduled to leave Sunday carrying 300,000 passengers.

The trains also are needed to move vast amounts of coal, which provides much of China's electricity.

Normally coal mines use the weeklong holiday that starts Wednesday to cut production so equipment repairs can be carried out and their workers can go home, but this year more than 80 percent of the state-owned mines will run full blast, the State Administration of Working Safety said.