01/22/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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Snow cuts off electricity from the Three Gorges Dam to Shanghai

30 centimetres of snow were enough to block an essential electrical line. Problems in entire provinces, with streets closed and flights cancelled. The bad weather continues, while tens of thousands of Chinese begin their journey back home for the lunar New Year.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Problems with electricity in Shanghai, after the heavy snowfalls in recent days disrupted, on January 17, the electricity cables from the Three Gorges Dam. Chaos, transportation disruptions, and deaths all over central and eastern China, under the ravages of the snow.

About 30 centimetres of snow knocked down the high tension electrical line and damaged four pylons. More than 150 tonnes of snow fell on Mount Dabie, in the mountains of Anhui. The snow is also blocking the work of repairmen, who have arrived using snowmobiles. More than 450 workers restored a temporary power line, but the damage is not expected to be repaired before the Chinese lunar new year (which begins on February 6).

The cold and snow caused further demand for energy just when there were already shortages in Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Sichuan, Chongqing, and Jianxi, where many power stations have been shut down because of a coal shortage that began in December.

There have been unusual levels of cold and snow this year in central and eastern China, blocking roads, railroads, and airports, and causing traffic accidents in Shanghai and in the provinces of Hubei, Anhui, Henan, Shandong, and Jiangsu. The snowfalls - the heaviest in the past 16 years - have blocked in 2.84 million people in Anhui, and 7.8 million in Hubei, killing 11 and destroying crops. In Hubei, half of the streets are closed and in the capital of Wuhan about nine thousand long-distance bus trips have been cancelled, blocking about 300,000 people who were returning home. The disruptions have been significant in part because they coincide with the travel of tens of millions of people for the greatest Chinese feast, the lunar New Year. The trains have been swamped: in Changsha (Hunan), more than 100 ticketed passengers could not depart on a train that had been filled to beyond capacity.

Meanwhile, the bad weather continues: the national meteorology centre forecasts more heavy snowfalls in the central and western regions on January 27.

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