Relentless snowstorms continued battering wide swathes of central, eastern and southern China on January 30, adding to the chaos already caused by the worst winter weather the region has seen in 50 years.
The brutal storms, which were blamed for about 24 deaths in January, wreaked havoc on the country’s transportation and energy networks, stranding an estimated tens of thousands of travelers, including many migrant workers, and unplugging millions due to power cuts.
The government was quick to react to the storm emergency. Nevertheless, the country’s ability to handle such a widespread weather crisis has been tested, raising questions about the emergency response law that went into force last November, as well as the impact of climate change.
The storms hit as China prepared for the Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, which falls on February 7 and is one of the world’s largest annual mass movements of people, with hundreds of millions of Chinese returning to their native family homes.
Read also Southern China struggles to dig out from storms by Evan Osnos on The Chicago Tribune.
By Sunday afternoon, 22-year-old Li Mingli, a manager in a refrigerator plant, had been awake, by his count, for 36 hours—since he left home at 4:30 a.m. Saturday. His odyssey so far included a canceled flight from the city of Hangzhou, various bus trips and waiting in line from 2:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Sunday to get a flight to Guangzhou, where he hoped to board a last leg by train to his hometown.
His hair mussed, his glasses slumped at the end of this nose, he pulled a luggage cart along the asphalt and looked for a shortcut that didn’t exist.