Safely home, tourists recount their icy ordeal
A group of Hong Kong tourists yesterday recounted how they were trapped for 36 hours in freezing weather without food or warmth when their bus was stranded on a snowbound highway in Hunan.
The 34 members of the tour, including their guide, were flown to Hong Kong from Changsha yesterday afternoon, six days behind schedule.
They had paid about HK$800 for a six-day coach tour to Zhangjiajie organised by SIG Holidays. On their way home they got caught in the freezing weather that has brought central and southern China to a standstill.
They left Hong Kong on January 20 and were scheduled to be back in Shenzhen last Friday. But their coach became stuck in snowbound traffic at 8am that day until midday on Saturday.
'The road was coated with a film of ice. It was so dangerous to move on. All the cars were stuck there,' said tourist Lam Yi-lok, 23.
Mr Lam, a social-work major at Soochow University in Taiwan, said: 'If we had stayed there for another day, I believe all of us would have got sick. It was about minus 15 degrees outdoors and about 2 to 3 degrees in the coach.
'My legs were freezing and they almost lost sense of feeling. And I had a sharp pain in my knees.
'It was completely dark at night as the driver turned off the light to save energy. But I couldn't sleep well because it was ice-cold. I had just four hours' sleep that night. I was worried. We did not have enough food. I just had some chocolate and candies in my sack and I was starving.
'But our tour guide found a farmhouse nearby, so we took turns to get off the bus and went into the farmhouse to have cup noodles,' he said.
Helen Yu Lan-kuen, 56, said it took about 15 minutes to walk to the house in glacial temperatures.
Mr Lam said the four-member family had sold them cup noodles at 10 yuan a cup and charged 20 yuan for women to use their toilet.
Their tour guide, Danny Li, decided about noon the next day that they should head back to Changsha after he talked to a driver who had been stuck on the road for three days. They arrived in Changsha city about 8pm that night, said SIG Holidays managing director Simon Hau Suk-kei.
The tourists stayed in a hotel in Changsha for five days until arrangements were made to fly them back to Hong Kong.
Mr Hau said the agency would offer a free boat trip next Friday for the tourists to watch the fireworks in Victoria Harbour.
The Travel Industry Council cancelled all package tours to snow-covered Changsha and Zhangjiajie in Hunan until tomorrow. This affects about 700 people on package tours.