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Deadly storms cause continuing chaos across China

A macaque rests on a snow-covered tree at a park in Guiyang, Guizhou province
The storms have caused or exacerbated so many problems and affected so many people - the state papers estimate 77.9 million are suffering the brunt of the weather - that Beijing might easily be worried about maintaining its tight control on the population. The upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, set to begin Feb. 6, has added significantly to the collective misery here. About 2.3 billion trips were planned during the holiday break and vast numbers of them were by poor migrant workers who only get home to see their children and families once a year. There are now about 200,000 migrant workers stranded around the train station in Guangzhou, 30,000 around Shanghai's stations and countless thousands more at train and long distance bus stations in other major centres. The authorities have urged them to go back to their work sites, but so many have resisted that in Guangzhou the army was brought in to keep watch over the shivering crowd. Adding to the misery is a coal shortage that has led to power rationing in 17 of China's 31 provinces, including blackouts. Food shipments are also at a standstill and prices are rising as a consequence, just at a time when everyone wants to stock up for the holidays. The poor are suffering massively from the storms, as many do not have central heating, but worse still, the ramshackle houses they live in can't withstand the severe weather. Accumulating snow has caused the collapse of 107,000 homes so far. Experts have long said that Beijing could have trouble on its hand if ever such a cocktail of disaster hits those who have been left far behind by China's spectacular economic rise.


China sends in army to battle snow chaos

BEIJING (AFP) — China dispatched the army Wednesday to help millions of people stranded by snowstorms that have caused transport gridlock, crippled power distribution and left many towns and villages short on supplies.

At least 460,000 troops from the People's Liberation Army and paramilitary forces fanned out across parts of China where dozens of people have died amid the worst storms in 50 years, the government said.

"The People's Liberation Army has ordered its troops to go all out to help those battling the heavy snow in the southern part of the country," the state-run China Daily newspaper said.

"The troops were ordered to give whatever assistance local governments required."

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