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China Transport Meltdown

China transport meltdown as 200,000 people camp out for train which won't arrive for a WEEK

Last updated at 11:29am on 28th January 2008

Leaves on the line, cancelled planes and interminable traffic jams have all become part of the British psyche but our public transport woes are nothing compared to the astonishing crisis gripping China.

After weeks of blizzards and ice storms, the rail network has come crashing to a halt in spectacular style.

Chaos: 200,000 people are waiting for trains out of Guangzhou

Such is the extent of the chaos that police and soldiers have been called in to deal with a staggering 200,000 travellers waiting for a train.

The swelling crowds, who are mainly migrant factory workers have filled up a huge plaza in front of the main station in Guangzhou, China.

They eventually spilled out into a busy thoroughfare that had to be closed to give people space to camp out while they waited.

Panic: Would be passengers resort to desperate measures to get to the front of the queue

What is even more extraordinary is that the legions of commuters have now been told it will be over a week before tickets go back on sale on February 7.

The date is the start of Chinese New Year - the nation's biggest annual holiday. Today, officials were scrambling to control the crowds and find temporary shelter for the migrant workers in schools and convention centers.  Police blew whistles and barked orders into bull horns as they tried to restore order while soldiers stood guard at key spots around the station.

Stoical: Most people, like this mother and child, wait patiently ...

There was a threat protests or worse could be sparked by the workers, who already have a long list of grievances, such as rising living costs, poor working conditions and low salaries that often go unpaid.

But so far, the scene in Guangzhou, which rarely sees snow, was relatively calm.  Many of the workers were stoic or cheerful, accustomed to huge crowds, discomforts and long delays that are common in the lives of China's impoverished classes.

In more bad news, the chaos is likely to get worse as forecasters warned that new snowstorms and freezing rain could soon hit central and eastern China, putting more pressure on already strained transport, communications and power grids.

... while a few became angry. Soldiers and police have been called in to monitor the situation

Snow on the line: Two trains cross a bridge over the Yangtze River but many services are not running

The freakish weather has already affected 67 million people since sleet and snow storms began wrecking havoc two weeks ago.

Freak conditions snapped power lines for scores of electric passenger trains in neighboring Hunan province - a midpoint for the busy rail line that runs from Guangzhou to Beijing.

The ice storms also closed highways, and 24 deaths have been reported since the heavy snow began on January 24.

But despite the extreme conditions, people seem to remain upbeat.

One young mother who would give only her surname, Yang, spent the night on the street in front of the train station with her 7-month-old daughter.

The ground around her was littered with chicken bones, sunflower seed shells and cigarette butts.

Yang said her morning train was canceled, and she thought her only option was to cancel her holiday visit with her family in neighboring Jiangxi province.

She said she would probably spend the holiday in her small apartment in nearby Foshan city, where she works in a factory that makes digital cameras.

"There's no reason to get upset about this or blame anyone," Yang said. "It's just the weather's fault."

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