Millions stranded across China as bad weather disrupts travel plans

TOKYO - Rain and snow have disrupted the journeys of millions of people travelling across China after the new year holidays, causing chaos during peak-day travel.

The National Meteorological Centre issued a yellow alert for blizzards, the second lowest in a four-tier system, and said that Henan, Hubei, Anhui and Jiangsu provinces would continue to get snowfall.

In some regions, the snow could be as deep as 20cm, leading to slippery conditions on roads, the centre said, Xinhua reported. The blizzards coincided with the final day of the week-long holiday on Thursday.

Authorities in eight provinces launched emergency response systems to ensure the safety of road traffic under extreme weather conditions.

Highways in the provinces of Shandong, Shaanxi, Shanxi and Hubei have been partially or completely closed and high-speed trains in Hubei, Henan and Shaanxi have been forced to operate at lower speeds since Wednesday.

The speed was capped at 200kmh, the Beijing Times reported, causing nearly 100 late arrivals. Under normal circumstances, the speed allowed at some sections is above 300kmh.

Snow in east China's Shandong province led to delays on the high-speed Shanghai-Beijing route.

Between complaining about late trains and planes, jammed highways and bad weather, some people began to wonder why they bothered returning at all.

Work began yesterday, but the lingering snow forced many Chinese to continue their stays at home.

SNOW IN BEIJING

Meanwhile, the first snow of the winter began falling in Beijing early on Friday.

The Chinese capital has been suffering from a dry spell since light rain in October last year, the municipal meteorological observatory said.

Statistics from the Beijing environmental monitoring centre showed that the snow had cleaned the air, dramatically reducing PM2.5 pollution index readings.

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