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Freezing Weather Disrupts New Year Trips Home by Millions of Chinese

Hundreds of trains have been delayed or suspended, and throngs of passengers stranded at railway stations by blistering cold in Hunan and Hubei provinces

Workers clear ice and snow off the tracks along Lianyungang East railway station, during the Spring Festival travel rush ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year, in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, on February 5, 2024 (China Daily via Reuters).


Freezing winter weather has disrupted travel plans by millions of Chinese seeking to head home for the Spring Festival break.

Traffic has been congested by blistering cold conditions that have swept through in central and eastern parts of the country over the past week.

Hunan and Hubei provinces have borne the brunt of the severe weather, which worsened over the weekend, slowing highway traffic to a crawl and cancelling hundreds of trains.

The travel disruptions coincide with the biggest mass travel migration in the world as millions flock home to see their families.


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Over the past few days, videos across Chinese social media showed images of people stranded on trains and or trapped in cars on snowy highways in several cities, including Jingzhou.

One driver was trapped in a car for three days, business outlet Yicai reported on Monday, and a passenger going to Wuhan was stuck on a train after it lost power supply amid freezing temperatures, social media videos showed.


Over 120 blockages on highways

Hundreds of trains have been delayed or suspended, and throngs of passengers were stranded at railway stations in Wuhan, local media said. Runways at the Tianhe Airport in Wuhan were temporarily closed Tuesday, state media CCTV reported.

Photos from China Meteorological Administration showed bent and broken trees scattered across roads in Hunan, felled by freezing rain. In 10 provinces, about 129 sections of highways were closed, according to Beijing News.

At least two people have died in snow-related accidents. One person in Hubei and another from the southern province of Hunan were killed as awnings in farmers markets collapsed under heavy snow, according to a state media reports.

The severe weather is expected for another few days, according to China National Emergency Broadcasting. Several cities upgraded weather advisories and emergency response plans.

Authorities in Hubei said they aimed to clear out tunnels and bridges, where thick ice has caused choke points.

The province has instructed hundreds of highway toll stations to take traffic control measures, including letting vehicles through for free.

China’s Central Meteorological Observatory predicted more rain, snow and freezing weather in the south for the first half of this week, but said conditions would improve starting Thursday.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard




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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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