By Charles Hutzler, Associated Press Writer
BEIJING – China declared partial victory Sunday over a month of vicious winter weather, saying it had reconnected power and transportation to most storm-hit areas even as parts of the country were still struggling.
A government task force overseeing emergency operations said life was gradually returning to normal in southern and central China, where the worst snow and ice storms in 50 years led to at least 60 deaths and billions of dollars in economic losses, according to the official count.
Nine more people died Sunday morning when the bus they were riding in veered off an icy road in Guizhou province, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
The emergency task force said recovery efforts had restored electricity, cleared blocked roads and railways, and resupplied food markets across most affected areas. It called for additional efforts, however, to help remote mountainous areas.
“We have won a partial victory against the disaster of rain, snow and ice,” the task force, known as the Disaster Relief and Emergency Command Center, said after a meeting late Saturday in a notice that was carried by major state media the next day. “From today on we must continue to guarantee transport, electricity and basic livelihoods.”
The storms, which started a month ago, hit at a bad time — the Lunar New Year’s busy travel season. They also struck many areas unused to heavy snow.
Initially slow to respond, the central government has over the past week mobilized the military and emergency crews, gradually gaining control of the situation.
In an account typical of the communist government’s spin, Xinhua separately reported that 2,300 workers and 600 soldiers were working in snow-covered mountains of central China to repair a high-power 500-kilovolt transmission line from the Three Gorges Dam to the main grid.
Among the areas still struggling were Guizhou and neighboring Guangxi province, where some highways and county roads were still under traffic restrictions, the task force said.
The two provinces have mountainous areas that are among China‘s poorest. The task force said these remote places would be given priority in tapping government reconstruction funds to repair storm-damaged housing.