Power restored in most areas, and weather is forecast to improve
Government efforts to restore power for the Lunar New Year holiday appear to have paid off, with major regional electricity networks lit up once more thanks to extensive repair work and replenished coal reserves.
The increase in coal stockpiles was aided by easing traffic conditions in southern and eastern parts of the country, where ice covering the roads has been gradually melting with warmer temperatures seen since Tuesday.
State Electricity Regulatory Commission figures showed that average coal stockpiles at power stations had risen to 26.31 million tonnes by yesterday, enough to support at least 10 days of electricity generation.
Only 38 power plants had less than three days' of coal reserves, a sharp drop from 89 plants at the peak of the snowstorm-triggered crisis.
All major provincial power networks except Guizhou were running stably and the situation should improve as more electrical transmission facilities were repaired, the commission said.
Weather conditions in snow-hit areas would stay mostly sunny this weekend - good for disaster-relief efforts - though meteorologists warned the melting snow could lead to other problems.
The China Meteorological Administration said most areas along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River would be sunny or cloudy this weekend, while snow was expected in most parts of the northwest. It said the melting snow could trigger disasters such as landslides in mountainous areas and cause heavy fog in many eastern parts of the country, affecting traffic.
The state disaster relief co-ordination office ordered local authorities to double-check rail and road traffic in hilly areas yesterday to ensure the public was not exposed to the risks of landslides or similar dangers.
The office also ordered local authorities to check water quality because of fears that chemicals in the melting ice might pollute water sources.
Rare snowstorms have blanketed southern and central regions since mid-January, blocking traffic, cutting power supplies and stranding tens of millions of holiday travellers. The storms led to more than 80 deaths, destroyed or damaged 800,000 houses, and resulted in losses of 80 billion yuan, according to the Red Cross Society of China.
Air traffic has returned to normal, with the opening of the last airport shut by snowstorms in Guizhou. Road and rail traffic was also returning to normal by Wednesday, though some village roads in the south were not completely open.
Guangzhou railway station saw 76,000 passengers on Thursday, the first day of the new lunar year, double the number from last year.
President Hu Jintao , Premier Wen Jiabao and other state leaders have been visiting snow-affected areas this week to push forward the relief efforts.