image: forest in Nanjing, Getty images.
The heaviest snow in decades is continuing to cause chaos across China ahead of the busy Lunar New Year holiday, state media have reported.
Road and rail links have been paralysed, thwarting travellers trying to return home for the festivities. A blocked rail line has stranded about 500,000 people in the southern city of Guangzhou and officials are working to prevent riots, reports say.
The snowstorms, which began on 10 January, have now affected 80 million people across 14 provinces. Houses and agricultural land have been destroyed, leading to economic losses totalling Y22.09bn ($3bn, £1.5bn), Xinhua said.
<In Guangzhou, about half a million people have been unable to travel because snow in Hunan has blocked a key rail link with Beijing. Officials were trying to accommodate the stranded passengers, who were creating camps around the station. Police and soldiers were also on the scene to control the crowd, the Associated Press news agency reported.
Highways connecting Guangzhou and Hunan have also been blocked, with 20,000 vehicles stranded on one expressway, Xinhua said.
Power shortages have also become a problem, with Premier Wen Jiabao warning of serious difficulties.
Due to the rain, snow and frost, plus increased winter use of coal and electricity and the peak travel season, the job of ensuring coal, electricity and oil supplies and adequate transportation has become quite severe,” he said at a cabinet meeting on Sunday.
Stockpiles of coal – upon which many of China’s power stations depend – are low and 17 provinces have introduced blackouts to ration power.