Icy weather impedes travellers in China for new year festivities

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Freezing rain, snow and ice have complicated the journey home for many in central and eastern China, as billions travel ahead of the Spring Festival in chilly weather that has swept through parts of the country during the past week.

The central province of Hubei has been hit the hardest, with highways slowed to a crawl and trains delayed or cancelled, leaving travellers stranded.

One driver was trapped for three days, business outlet Yicai reported on Monday. Hundreds of trains have been delayed or suspended, and throngs of passengers stranded at railway stations in Wuhan, local media said. Runways at the Tianhe Airport in Wuhan were temporarily closed early Tuesday, state media CCTV said.

At least two people have died in snow-related accidents, including one from Hubei and one from the southern province of Hunan as ceilings in farmers markets fell because of heavy snow, according to a state media report and a local government statement.

The severe weather is expected for another few days, with large-scale snow and rain forecast, according to China National Emergency Broadcasting.

Provincial authorities inHubei said they aimed to clear out tunnels and bridges, where thick ice has caused choke points.

The province has instructed hundreds of highway toll stations to take traffic control measures, including letting vehicles through for free.

Trees in Hunan province were bent and had fallen onto roads after freezing, photos from China Meteorological Administration showed.

China’s Central Meteorological Observatory predicted a new round of rain, snow and freezing weather in the country’s south in the first half of this week, but said conditions would improve starting Thursday.