Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cold hits China (and my running...)

A wave of unusual bad weather has stricken Central and South China, with snow and temperature dropping much lower than usual.

Well ... nothing special, I guess, for those who read from Northern America or Northern Europe, but the snow storms hit the fragile infrastructure of transportation of a country that is simply growing too fast to manage all the implications of such development, right now at the eve of the mass exodus associated with the holidays of the Lunar New Year.

Train to/from Guangdong are therefore blocked because of the snow and the results is ...(read the news from AP and SCMP).

28 january 2008

200,000 stranded passengers mass at Guangzhou station
Associated Press in Guangzhou
6:00pm, Jan 28, 2008
Hundreds of police and soldiers were trying to control swelling crowds on Monday at a major train station in Guangzhou, where about 200,000 travellers were stranded by blizzards and ice storms that have created a transportation crisis during the nation’s busiest travel time of the year.

The chaos might 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.
The freakish weather has already affected 67 million people, and the total economic loss was 18.2 billion yuan (HK$19.7 billion), the Civil Affairs Ministry said.
In Guangzhou station, a growing sea of stranded travellers – most migrant factory workers – filled up the huge plaza in front of the city’s main train station. They eventually spilled out into a busy thoroughfare that had to be closed to give people space to camp out while they waited for trains in the Guangdong capital.
Radio announcements urged people not to go to the station because most trains have been cancelled and tickets were no longer being sold until February 7, the start of Chinese New Year – the nation’s biggest annual holiday.
The weather started wreaking havoc two weeks ago when sleet and snow storms began snapping power lines for scores of electric passenger trains in neighbouring 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 January 10, the Xinhua news agency reported.
Officials in Guangzhou were scrambling to control the crowds and find temporary shelter for the migrant workers in schools and convention centres. Although it rarely snows here, Guangzhou was in the grips of a cold snap that was made worse by rain that has been soaking travellers.
Officials estimated 200,000 people were at the station on Monday.
Police blew whistles and barked orders into bull horns as they tried to control the crowd. Soldiers stood guard at key spots around the station.
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.
So far, the scene in Guangzhou was relatively calm. Many of the workers were stoic or cheerful, accustomed to huge crowds, discomforts and long delays.
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.
Ms Yang said her morning train was cancelled, and she thought her only option was to cancel her holiday visit with her family in neighbouring 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,” Ms Yang said. “It’s just the weather’s fault.”

30th January .... getting worse and worse
Stranded travellers won't give up
300,000 at Guangzhou railway station determined to make it home to families
Ivan Zhai
Jan 30, 2008
Tens of thousands of passengers stranded at Guangzhou railway station in cold, rainy weather are willing to wait until the last minute for trains home for the Lunar New Year.
After working in a Dongguan arts and crafts company for almost nine years, a Hubei passenger surnamed Yan said he and his family of three had prepared food and water for three days in case of train delays.
He said he had heard about service cancellations on the Beijing-Guangzhou railway caused by heavy snowfalls in Hunan and Hubei before coming to Guangzhou. But his family still wanted to give it a try because some of his friends had already managed to get on a train home.
"That is why we want to wait here until we have finished all our food and water," he said, adding that his seven-year-old daughter was born and raised in Dongguan and it would be the first opportunity for her to see her grandparents in Wuhan .
Gao Wenbing , a migrant worker with a Dongguan construction company, said he also preferred to wait at the railway station even though senior Guangdong officials had urged migrant workers not to go home this year.
He did not want to move even to the Canton Fair exhibition buildings, opened for stranded passengers 500 metres from the station.
"I will miss the boarding call if I move to the buildings," he said.
Guangdong party secretary Wang Yang , who visited crowds at the railway station on Monday, said passengers should be ready to spend the Lunar New Year in Guangdong if trains were cancelled.
By 6pm yesterday, more than 400,000 passengers had left Guangzhou on 199 trains which were forced to detour via other lines to avoid snow-bound tracks. But about 300,000 other passengers were stranded in Guangzhou and more were flooding into the city, Xinhua reported.
Passengers inside and outside the station said the cold and rain had increased their misery.
Mr Gao, who has worked in Dongguan for about five years, said it was the coldest winter he had experienced in the province.
Li Chaobing , a Hunan migrant worker, told doctors in a shelter that he felt sick after being caught in the cold rain.
Some other passengers who were moved into the buildings after Sunday complained that officials had failed to provide the free water and biscuits offered before.
"I moved in on Monday afternoon and had to buy some instant noodles myself," said Shaanxi worker Wu Jiaqi, "I felt cold at night and a little hungry now."
Guangdong Meteorological Bureau expert Lu Shan said temperatures would drop up to 3 degrees Celsius today, down to as low as 4 degrees at night.

So imagine 300.000 people waiting for a train outside the railway station of your own city....

Here in the deep South, snow is not possible, but the temperature dropped to 3/5C.
Does not sound too bad, but:
- houses/offices do not have any heating system, so basically the temperature inside is around 10C. I am currently typing this blog in my office (...), wearing a coat and a pile
- windows are usually of the sliding type, without too much sealing properties... wind snipes inside the buildings too easily ...
- no suitable clothing ... (personally I have no heavy shoes..)

This morning has been one of the toughest run in my recent past: 5C, rain, dark, cold wind from the North. My clothing totally unsuited: silk gloves, light lycra tights, no cap .
Usually the roads are bustling with people even very early in the morning, but today It was dramatically quiet and empty.
I managed to run a good 23km in 1h36', but at the end, my hands were so cold that I could barely turn the keys to open the door...
Luckily the whole winter usually will last 3/4 weeks.......

No comments: