Treaty of Nanking

Anger over handling of delays

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2008, 12:00am

Tempers are flaring in Shanghai as angry travellers stranded by the city's heaviest snowfall in 24 years complain about delays and vent their anger on transport companies for their handling of the situation.

At Hongqiao airport, which handles almost all domestic traffic, thousands of people camped out in the main departure hall yesterday, some playing cards and others pressing airport employees for information.

Shouting matches broke out between frustrated passengers and airline staff. At least 70 departing flights were delayed. Only a handful of flights left in the afternoon.

'It's too chaotic, just like a vegetable market,' said Maggie Tan, who was queueing to try to check in for a flight to Shenzhen after a business trip.

More than 40 People's Armed Police were mobilised to keep order, joining 40 airport police and security guards, an airport official said.

One passenger complained about the lack of information. 'I can understand flights being delayed because of the snow, but I can't find any information about whether my flight has been delayed or cancelled,' said Gavia Shi, who was heading home to Jiangxi province for the Lunar New Year.

On Monday, Shanghai's two airports had more than 400 flights delayed or cancelled, leaving more than 5,000 passengers stranded, local media said.

University student Sun Yijiao gave up and got a refund on her ticket, saying she would find another way back to Guangzhou with her two sisters.

'I'm tired of waiting in the queue,' she said. 'I want to ask for information but there are too many people.'

Finding a way home could be difficult. Shanghai has cancelled all long-distance train ticket sales for three days because trains from other destinations have not been arriving.

The halt left more than 70,000 people marooned at railway stations. Some people have been sleeping in Shanghai Railway Station for more than two days.

People's Armed Police also stood guard at South Railway Station and helped to clear roads of snow. One local newspaper called Shanghai's response to the natural disaster a 'war'.

Transport companies have cancelled more than 3,500 long-distance bus trips in the past three days, leaving tens of thousands of people without a way home for the Lunar New Year.

Although snowfall had stopped by yesterday morning, several expressways linking Shanghai to other areas remained closed.

The city ordered migrant construction workers to return to their worksites to wait out the delays, instead of congregating at train and bus stations.

Shanghai had also designated a stadium and two schools to provide shelter for stranded travellers.