Snow and ice create havoc in China

Snow and ice has caused chaos in China, disrupting the nation's busiest holiday travel season.

Snow and ice has caused chaos in China, disrupting the nation's busiest holiday travel season.

At least 25 people were killed and 13 injured when a bus plunged off an icy road in the south of the country.

About 500,000 people - most migrant workers - were stuck in the southern city of Guangzhou, railway officials said.

Heavy snowfall in provinces to the north had cut off parts of the busy railway line that starts in the city and ends in Beijing.

The latest accident brought the known death toll in the last two weeks to nearly 50. Xinhua News Agency said the bus plunged 40 metres off a road into a valley in mountainous Guizhou province at 7.40am today (11.40pm Irish time).

The 35-seat passenger bus was carrying 38 people when it crashed, killing 25 people, Xinhua said.

Two passengers suffered serious injuries and were taken to hospital in critical condition and the other 11 had slight injuries.

It said the road was covered with a thick layer of ice and snow, in "a sharp contrast to the usual warm winter climate".

Officials were scrambling to find temporary shelter in schools and convention centres for the crowd in Guangzhou, which was growing each day as more workers tried to return to their hometowns for the Chinese New Year.

The holiday, which begins on February 7, is as important in China as Christmas is in the West. For many migrants, it's their only chance to visit their families.

Many looked set to be disappointed however as forecasters warned that more heavy snow and freezing rain would hit the central provinces of Hunan, Hubei and Henan, as well as Zhejiang, Anhui and Jiangsu to the east this week.

The storms have already caused economic losses of around 130 bn Yuan (€12.2bn) since they began on January 10, the Civil Affairs Ministry said.

Radio announcements told people to stop going to the station, which ceased selling tickets until Feb 7. State-run newspapers ran headlines urging the migrants to seek ticket refunds and stay put for the holiday.

Li Moming, a construction worker, said he spent the night on the street, enduring a bone-chilling drizzle. The train that was to take the 48-year-old man to his village in central Henan province - 20 hours away - was cancelled. He said his next move might be to change his travel plans and spend the holiday in his dormitory room at his work site.

"I thought about taking a bus but the highways are shut down, too. Oh well, what can you do?" said the jovial Li, dressed in a mud-splattered brown pinstriped suit for his ill-fated homecoming.

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