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Storms devastate southern China


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I found it interesting that this has affected 80 million people (more than the entire population of France) and I hadn't heard anything about it until last night:

No Way Home for China's Migrants

Gao Biao stands in front of the Guangzhou train station with an umbrella in his hand, staring into the crush of people ahead of him. The 27-year-old has spent the past year hard at work in a cosmetics factory in this southern Chinese city, and now he's trying to get back home for the holidays. The trip to his hometown outside the central city of Suzhou takes more than 20 hours — if he can board. Around him, hundreds of people push towards an opening in the barrier surrounding the station. A police officer standing behind a fence shouts into a megaphone, calling for order. "I haven't made any money here," Gao says. "But I want to go home to see my mother."

The Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, which begins Feb. 7, is China's most important holiday. Each year the nation's roads and rail lines are swamped by the world's largest annual human migration. Factories and mines close down for as long as two weeks, providing the year's only chance to return home for many of the 200 million migrant workers who drive the country's booming economy.

This year, travel has been particularly grueling, as some of the heaviest snowstorms in recent memory have wrought destruction and misery in 14 of China's provinces. The Ministry of Civil affairs announced on Monday that 24 people had died in storm-related accidents, including 10 in collapsed houses. On Tuesday, 25 people were killed when a bus slid off an icy road in southwestern Guizhou province, the state-run Xinhua News Service reported. Some 80 million people have been affected by the storm, 1 million of them having had to be relocated. Damage, including the collapse of 100,000 houses, is estimated at $3 billion. Central Hunan province, which saw its heaviest snowfall in half a century, was the worst hit, with $1.5 billion in damage and 29 million affected, the state-run China Daily reported. Shanghai closed four expressways, and the cancellation of 2,000 buses and nearly 100 flights left thousands stranded.

While Guangzhou avoided the worst of the weather, it is the site of some of the most vivid scenes of adversity. The city, capital of the country's most prosperous province, is a major transit hub through which millions of migrants would have to pass on their homeward journey. Road and rail outages have left as many as half a million stranded here. The main rail link between Guangzhou and Beijing was disabled when heavy snow and ice in Hunan province knocked out power lines last weekend, leaving at least 136 trains stranded, according to Xinhua. Several highways north out of Guangzhou were also closed.

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