China: Blizzards disrupts tourism plans of millions

Blizzards and freezing rain in China have disrupted the annual home visits for millions during the lunar new year, causing transport delays and cancellations that left travelers stranded. Social media videos depict people breaking through thick layers of ice, blocking roads as they strive to reach their hometowns before the spring festival on February 10.

This festival, the country’s busiest travel period, represents the only annual trip for many urban workers to celebrate with family over the seven-day national holiday. Despite over 2,000 extra flights scheduled, hundreds were canceled due to adverse weather conditions.

The heavy snowfall led to the closure of over 120 sections of major roads, and temperatures in central and eastern China plummeted below freezing. Thousands of workers were deployed to clear roads and restore train services. The challenging conditions have prompted online discussions, such as a woman stuck on a Hunan highway for three days, with villagers selling hot rice at debated prices.

Described as the worst spring festival conditions since 2008, this year’s weather has already claimed two lives, and the ministries of finance and transport are allocating funds to aid in highway clearance. Blizzards have affected Anhui, Hubei, and Hunan provinces, prompting an orange alert for heavy snowfall. More snow is anticipated on Wednesday, with conditions improving on Thursday, according to official meteorologists.

Despite the challenges posed by blizzards and freezing rain during China’s lunar new year, efforts are underway to address the widespread disruptions. The severe weather conditions have not only impacted travel plans but also led to the closure of major roads and tragic incidents, such as the collapse of shop awnings and market rooftops, resulting in at least two fatalities in Hubei and Hunan.

The affected regions, including Anhui, Hubei, and Hunan provinces, are grappling with the aftermath of the blizzards. The National Meteorological Centre issued an orange alert for continued heavy snowfall in some parts of China. The situation remains dynamic, with meteorologists predicting additional snowfall on Wednesday, followed by an easing of conditions on Thursday.

To alleviate the difficulties faced by travelers and local communities, the ministries of finance and transport have committed 141 million yuan (£15.8 million) to support authorities in clearing highways. This financial aid is aimed at expediting the restoration of transportation networks and facilitating the movement of people during this crucial holiday period.

As the country copes with the worst spring festival conditions since 2008, memories of the past blizzards that claimed more than 20 lives serve as a somber reminder of the importance of coordinated efforts to mitigate the impact of extreme weather.

The resilience of communities is evident as individuals adapt to the circumstances, engaging in online discussions about fair pricing for necessities like hot rice sold along stranded highways.

The ongoing challenges underscore the significance of preparedness and response measures to ensure the safety and well-being of the affected population. As the meteorological conditions evolve, authorities continue their efforts to clear roads, restore services, and provide essential support to those navigating the unexpected challenges brought about by the severe weather during this lunar new year period.

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