China: Lunar new year approaches with tragedy growing

Crisis looms large across the south part of the country with the 2008 China Snowstorm showing no signs of letting up. Trains are trapped [zh] on tracks, cars stuck on highways, flights have been delayed and canceled up and down the east coast and at least one woman has been trampled to death [zh] beneath the hundreds of thousands of stranded travelers at Guangzhou‘s train station in the south, scrambling in misery to make it home for the Olympic Chinese New Year of the Rat, which begins on Thursday.

The impact has been worse in other parts of the south, not accustomed to dealing with snow in any amounts, leaving large parts of Hunan and Hubei provinces freezing but without electricity and in some cases, water. Nearly all of normally subtropical Guizhou province, one of China's poorest, is in crisis mode now, with large areas urban and rural encased entirely in ice.

For the areas that still have electricity, the shared experience is being shown online. Here one Youku user somewhere in Guizhou writes that with both water and electricity off, over ten thousand people have gathered at what appears to be a natural hot water source (**please be warned that in the fifth video down, closeups of dead bodies are portrayed):

Another user from Guizhou writes in shock at all the ice, in a province which very seldom sees snow:

More shocking images of the response efforts, also from Guizhou:

Dozens of similar citizen reporter-style videos can be found on Chinese video sharing websites; this one comes from Hunan:

Several days ago a bus traveling from Chongqing to Guizhou overturned on the highway, resulting in 25 deaths. Someone took the time to film the salvage effort at the extremely grisly scene:

TangFlyBra at hoopChina asks in a post on Friday, “Guizhou, are you still alive?”



First off, Guizhou was the earliest place to be covered in ice, and it's also seen the most severe disaster; the heavy snow which has filled the sky has done far more damage to Guizhou than it has other areas, because Guizhou is in the Karst region, and most roads loop around the mountains, making it not only impossible to leave, meaning that the mountain cities and villages are cut off from each other, with no possibility of getting out! Now, many counties in Guizhou have had no water or electricity or contact with the outside world for days already; add in the extreme poverty there, and the local people end up completely abandoned in mountains.

Hunan is a national traffic hub, and Guangzhou is where migrant workers gather to return home, so reports have all been on these two provinces. And Guizhou, which has seen the most devastation? Have people forgotten it already? Last night I saw the latest list of disaster areas, but I didn't even see Guizhou province on the front page! God dammit!

What's more, countless electricity towers in Guizhou, covered in ice nearly a centimeter thick, have toppled over. With a ton of ice pressing down on it, what electricity tower wouldn't fall down? For several days already, [the provincial capital] Guiyang has been without electricity or water. Even the provincial government is lighting candles now just to convene, and if that's where they're at, other cities must be worse.

As the entire province is stuck in endless misery, CCTV reporters from Guiyang did interviews for an update on the latest of the disaster. Their first question was, “have you been affected there by the latest snowfall?” Fuck! It's not snow if it's Guizhou snow, is that it? Then when I expected the Guiyang reporter to start asking the serious questions (my mom and dad, btw, can't even get out door now, the frozen snow from last night's fall has turned the ground into a thick layer of ice. All the roads in Guizhou are on rolling land, so you can imagine that the whole province is pretty much one big skating rink now), do you know what the reporter spent ten minute talking about? That fucking China Mobile and China Unicom relay stations have been affected, and how every seven hours someone is going and using a diesel generator to make sure everyone's cellphones work smoothly…the people in the mountain villages are about to fucking freeze and starve to death, and all of Guiyang is without power or water and can't even go out, and you're still fucking here talking about ensuring cellphone usage? Fuck!!!

Zhao Mu, director of main news portal's blogging services, posted on his blog today a thread of netizen comments that has been making the rounds:

Aqua and green are little to no hazard areas








Guizhou is already at 5 or 6 below zero, the limits of wet cold. Soon it will be taking away people's body heat. The people of Guizhou are already short of water and electricity, and in the midst of a food crisis, with no guarantee on resources, making life for them bleak beyond the imaginable.

I hope the weather ends soon. With care and sympathy from Chengdu.

Who's going to rescue the Guizhouers trapped in the snow?

News is everywhere now of the snow catastrophe, and Guizhou has been one of the hardest-hit regions. I'm from Guizhou, living now in Beijing, and that's why I'm paying particular attention to the Guizhou disaster. I've noticed that there's not much to be found out about what's happening there now from the internet, television, newspapers or magazines, so I've been keeping in regular touch with family members and relatives, over the phone and through SMS, and I've learned that the traffic situation is horrible, but even less about places like Duyun and Fuquan with no power supply. Right until just now when I got from one friend a pretty comprehensive picture, which I'll post here, and I hope the webmaster hikes this up so more people see it, and to give the people back where I'm from a shred of hope! If things keep on the way they are, us Guizhoers around the country won't have enough face left to go back and face the folks at home.
“Renhuai is already a dead city, it's so tragic. No water, no electricity, no supplies and no oil. All roads have been closed for two weeks already, and even the main streets are layered with ice. The ice on the roofs of houses is seven centimeters thick, and people have already frozen to death. The crematory has no fuel to burn the bodies with, it's tragic. Our whole squad can barely stay on the road (they're traffic police), this is more merciless than anything I've seen before. Sometimes I even wonder if this isn't a movie, it makes things a lot easier to handle! Today we finally got three hours of electricity and then it stopped again. I'm going back now to turn on the server UPS (this is a kind of power source) as I'm almost out of power. So tired.

The central government wasn't led to pay that much attention when the cold first struck, so there wasn't any preparation. Now if the central government doesn't keep up the emergency goods air drops, we're going to have large-scale deaths here.”

I ask what the situation is now in Renhuai, if the government has taken action, and he answers: “they can't move anything in, the fuel transport truck flipped on the road, and even the administrative center has no power; coal on the street is selling for 12 RMB a jin, candles 5 RMB a piece, and frozen cooked cabbage at 5 RMB a jin is still limited. There's nothing the government can do.”

I ask him how long they can last. “Two days at most, and if we haven't been saved by then, there are going to be mountains of corpses.”

News we could hear sooner than not; at least in Guangdong province, local transportation authorities didn't hesitate to repeat the true situation of tracks restored and numbers heading home in the face of Ministry (and The Minister) of Railways’ fabrications to that effect during Wen Jiabao's visit to the provincial capital's train station earlier this week. Southern Group reporters are being recalled, presumably so Xinhua can take over.

Making the most of the situation, a group of boys in hard-hit Bijie, Guizhou, filmed themselves hiking up to a local television transmission tower where locals are passing the time playing on an sloped ice patch:


  • […] 祝愿各大火车站,汽车站滞留的旅客们能够早日回家过年。今天终于爆出踩踏拥挤致死的事件了,要保护好自己。是否只有一人,这是值得怀疑的……还有,就如global voices online所言,我确实也很少从国内媒体得知贵州雪灾的境况……铺天盖地的是广州火车站滞留旅客,安徽,湖南,杭州…………贵州呢??? […]

  • […] taking food and supplies to the people stranded by snows. Guangzhou-based John also writes on Global Voices: Crisis looms large across the south part of the country with the 2008 China Snowstorm showing no […]

  • […] provinces. The excellent Global Voices Online offers a selection, with English translations, here (via […]

  • […] is hounding China as the Chinese New Year approaches. Snowstorms and blackouts sows mayhem, reports Global Voices Online: Crisis looms large across the south part of the country with the 2008 China Snowstorm showing no […]

  • […] the new year of 2008 began, the south of China was buried under heavy ice and snow, but how many people froze to death? How many starved to death? Where did they die? What were their names? Where they […]

  • […] China: Lunar new year approaches with tragedy growing Crisis looms large across the south part of the country with the 2008 China Snowstorm showing no signs of letting up. Trains are trapped [zh] on tracks, cars stuck on highways, flights have been delayed and canceled up and down the east coast and at least one woman has been trampled to death [zh] beneath […] […]

  • […] China marked the beginning of 2008 in which the country suffers from abnormal natural hazards. Trains got trapped on halfway stations were crowded with tens of thousands migrant workers anxiously waiting […]

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