Power plants feel the pinch as mainland weather crisis worsens
The mainland crisis caused by the heaviest snowfall in decades worsened yesterday with power supply problems deteriorating in the hardest-hit areas and transport remaining at a standstill.
Power generating capacity of more than 40 gigawatts - 7 per cent of the capacity of the mainland's coal-fired power plants - had been shut down, Xinhua quoted the State Electricity Regulatory Commission saying.
Coal supplies at power stations were down to 21.2 million tonnes, less than half the normal level at this time of year, and nearly 90 power plants, which accounted for more than 10 per cent of the mainland's total installed capacity, had less than three days of coal reserves left.
Millions in Hunan , Guizhou , Guangdong, Guangxi , Hubei and Jiangxi were stranded at railway stations and airports while trying to head home for the Lunar New Year, as well as having to deal with sub-zero temperatures and rocketing food prices.
In Guangdong, which receives much of its food from neighbouring provinces, the cut in transport links led to rising prices, with media reports saying the cost of some vegetables had tripled.
More than 500,000 people were stranded at Guangzhou station, with services on the Beijing-Guangzhou line still halted due to power cuts in Hunan, Xinhua reported. It said normal services were unlikely to resume in the next three to five days.
Last night, hundreds of thousands of anxious travellers again gathered outside the station after they heard that new services had been arranged to take them home via routes such as the Beijing-Kowloon line.
Many had just arrived in Guangzhou from other delta cities, and some had heard that other travellers who had been waiting for the past two days at the Canton Fair exhibition buildings had been taken to the station by buses arranged by the authorities.
However, the authorities were desperate to get people away from the station, and kept sending out mass telephone messages urging them not to take trains home and obtain ticket refunds.
Adding to the problem was the closure of seven of the eight highways connecting Guangdong and Hunan. In Guizhou, where power supplies to 44 counties and cities had been lost, electricity had been restored in 12 cities and partially restored in 20.
The death toll continued to rise as the nation battled its severest weather in 50 years. The Ministry of Civil Affairs reported that the weather had claimed 24 lives and affected 77 million people. It said 4.2 million hectares of crops were damaged, 399,000 houses destroyed and 22 billion yuan of direct economic loss incurred.