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China: Muscle Moves Mountains of Snow, Ice

February 6, 2008

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom

China is now doing what China does best: hurling thousands and even tens of thousands of people at a problem to ensure resolution.

Some of the work is simple and backbreaking: moving tons of snow and ice from roads, airports and train stations.

Soldiers clear ice and snow in Shanghai. The impact on China's ...
Soldiers clear snow and ice at Shanghai’s airport.
(AFP/Mark Ralston)

Convoys of trucks miles long move from coal storage and mining centers to the power plants in desperate need of fuel.

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a convoy ...
In this photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, a convoy of trucks carrying coal heads to provinces hard-hit by snow and ice storms to increase coal supply and bring back power there from Erdos, north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Monday, Feb. 4, 2008. The worst snowfall in decades beginning early January paralyzed cities in a part of the country.
(AP Photo/Xinhua, Li Xin)

A horde of electrical power repairmen has descended upon power lines felled by heavy ice.

Yet in some areas, the power has not yet been restored since it was lost 12 days ago.

And to add psychic pressure to those tasked with restoring services, today is the eve of day one of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration.

“It doesn’t feel like the New Year at all,” said Shi Ying of the central city of Chenzhou. “It should be happy but instead it’s scary.”

A snow covered village is seen near Chenzhou in China's southern ...
A snow covered village is seen near Chenzhou in China’s southern Hunan province Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008. Cold, exhausted residents stood in long lines for water and gasoline Tuesday as the central Chinese city of Chenzhou entered the 12th day of a blackout sparked by the worst winter storms in more than half a century.
(AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

In many regions, there is no TV or radio, and residents have no information about when utilities might be restored.

And on Tuesday, the U.S. Ambassador to China donated 150,000 U.S. dollars to China for disasters relief in snow stricken areas.

The U.S. ambassador to China Clark T. Randt, on behalf of the U.S. government, presented the donation to the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC).

Japan will give 57 million yen worth of emergency aid, including blankets and power generators, for snow-plagued China in response to Beijing’s requests, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

Chief Engineer Gu Junyuan of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission said electricity was restored to parts of Chenzhou on Monday evening, but the power failed again after just three hours.

“Since time is running out, our task is still an arduous one,” Gu told reporters in Beijing. He said workers would be hard pressed to restore power by Thursday, the Chinese New Year.

A motorcyclist passes a snow-covered region in Pingshi, in southern ...
A motorcyclist passes a snow-covered region in Pingshi, in southern China’s Guangdong province, more than 300 km (186 miles) north of Guangzhou, China, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008. Workers rushed to restore power Tuesday to regions of China hard-hit by snow and ice storms, in a struggle that state media said has already cost the lives of 11 electricians.
(AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Anita Chang of the Associated Press reported that cold, exhausted residents stood in long lines for water and gasoline. One woman did laundry on the sidewalk using a plastic basin and water from a fire hydrant, the sleeves of her bulky coat rolled up to the elbows. Others washed vegetables in front of shuttered storefronts.

“It is extremely cold and inconvenient. I haven’t had a shower for about 10 days,” said a Chenzhou travel agent who gave only her surname, Hong.

Prices of food, candles and charcoal briquettes used for heating and cooking have shot up — quadrupling in some cases — due to shortages, residents said.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are completely gone in many areas which now rely upon canned food.

Temperatures in Chenzhou hovered around 34 degrees, and were expected to dip below freezing Thursday.

Hunan and neighboring Hubei province have registered some of the coldest temperatures on record in the past month. On Monday, the government meteorological bureau said the provinces had recorded the longest run of days with an average temperature of freezing or below in a century.

And the Meteorological Bureau admitted that China was completely unprepared for this inclement weather which has long been predicted.

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, soldiers ...
In this photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, soldiers climb the Jinggang Mountains in east China’s Jiangxi Province on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008 as they are mobilized to fix power transmission lines damaged by heavy snow storms. The loss of power brought electric trains to a standstill, stranding more than 5 million holiday travelers.
(AP Photo/Xinhua, Dai Qingming)

Severe winter weather began pounding central and southern China last month, and the normally temperate regions were woefully unprepared for ice and snow.

Supplies of coal, which China uses to generate 70 percent of its electricity, dwindled amid transport bottlenecks.

Many trains run on electric power supplied from overhead. These overhead power lines were felled by ice.

The loss of power brought trains to a standstill, stranding more than 5 million holiday travelers. Official estimates have put losses to agriculture and the economy at $7.5 billion.

China’s leaders have made repeated trips to affected regions, reassuring residents and stranded travelers that the government was doing its best.

The government has mobilized over one million army troops and militia members. In one scene shown on state TV, dozens of troops slowly removed thick ice from a stretch of highway by hacking at it with pickaxes.

Accompanying the effort was a fulsome propaganda campaign emphasizing unity, overcoming hardship and pride in the motherland. All media in China is controlled by the communist government.

“The great Chinese people will never be vanquished by any disaster,” President and Communist Party leader Hu Jintao said at a Chinese New Year celebration in Beijing.

Despite the slow pace of repairs in Chenzhou, a transit hub with an urban population of more than 1 million and another 3 million in the surrounding countryside, the situation appeared to be improving elsewhere. A man was stampeded to death by a surging transit crowd last week.

Highways were being cleared of ice and train service was restored, allowing tens of millions of migrant workers to complete holiday journeys home.

Power had been restored to 27 of the 50 cities and counties affected, the electricity commission said. Nationwide, power was flowing again along 130 of 170 transmission cables affected.

The official Xinhua News Agency said 11 electricians had died while working to restore power. It wasn’t clear if they were included in the official death toll of 60 people killed in accidents and building collapses blamed on the storms.

Sun sets at the snow covered field Monday Feb.4, 2008 near Suzhou, ...
 ***************************Sun sets at the snow covered field Monday Feb.4, 2008 near Suzhou, China. China’s main north-south national freeway reopened Monday after weeks of snow and ice storms that have throttled transport and disrupted supplies of food and fuel during the country’s peak holiday season.
(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)


From The People’s Daily:

Electricity has come back to most of the Chinese regions hit by the worst winter storms in five decades, but people in eight counties are likely to spend their Lunar New Year’s Eve in darkness, the government said Tuesday.

China has so far managed to resume full or partial power service in 148 of the 170 counties and cities blacked out by the snowstorms, the national disaster relief headquarters under the State Council said in a statement.

But power service is not expected to be resumed by 6 p.m. Wednesday, in eight counties, including Guiyang, Jiahe in Hunan Province, Zixi, Lichuan, Yihuang and Le’an in Jiangxi province, Pingtang in Guizhou province and Ziyuan in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Spring Festival, the most important traditional Chinese festival, falls on Thursday this year. But Wednesday evening, the Lunar New Year’s Eve, is the most cherished hour for family reunion.

By 6:00 p.m. Monday, 6,785, or 49 percent of the power transmission lines paralyzed by the snowstorm have resumed operation after repair, according to the statement.

Stockpiles of power station coal reached 24.06 million tons on Sunday, up 2.99 million tons from the low level on Jan. 28, Tan Rongyao, supervisor of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission(SERC), said Tuesday.

The increasing power coal reserves have helped to cut the shortfall in power generating nationwide to 12.26 million kilowatts from 39.97 million kilowatts, according to the SERC.

The coal shortage, however, meant that only 36.23 million kilowatts of power generating capacity was available on Tuesday, 990,000 kilowatts less than a day ago.

The worst-hit provinces of Guizhou, Hunan and Jiangxi have restored 53 percent, 53 percent, and 60 percent respectively of their normal electrical loads by repairing power transmission wires paralyzed by blizzards and a deep freeze, Tan added.

“It shows the efforts to guarantee coal and power supply have yielded initial results,” Zhou Dabing, general manager of the leading power producer China Guodian Corporation, said.

The severe weather has stranded million of passengers eager to go back home for the Lunar New Year, the most important traditional festival in China, and caused blackouts in a large swathe of the country’s southern, central and eastern regions.

The snow havoc also has so far killed more than 80 people, toppled 300,000 homes, damaged 90 million hectares of crops, and resulted in direct economic losses of about 80 billion yuan (11 billion U.S. dollars) in 19 provinces and regions, according to the Red Cross Society of China.

China’s rail, highway and air transport systems are returning gradually to normal as the snowstorm eases, but millions of people are still being left in the cold and dark.

Chenzhou, a city hardest-hit by the snowstorm in the central province of Hunan, was not expected to get electricity supplies restored soon. Its four million residents have been left without electricity and tap water for 11 days.

The State Council ordered local government to step up precautions against potential geological disasters, environmental pollution, public health incidents, and transport accidents in thewake of the disastrous weather.

Meanwhile, Chinese vice-premier Hui Liangyu paid a visit to the central meteorological station Tuesday, where he urged all meteorological services to closely monitor the weather and improve their forecasts to guide disaster prevention and relief efforts.
Source: Xinhua