Bad weather and disruptions at a train station in southern China caused delays for at least 100,000 travelers rushing to get home for the Chinese New Year.
Guangzhou’s main railway station was packed full of stranded travelers on Monday some of whom had to queue for hours in rain and freezing temperatures.
The Guardian reports:
Vast crowds of migrant workers surged into Guangzhou’s main railway station hoping to make it back to their family homes ahead of Lunar New Year festivities on 8 February that will usher in the Year of the Monkey.
However, a bout of freezing weather and snow across eastern and central China saw at least 23 trains delayed, leaving many trapped in and around the station.
Aerial photographs published by one website showed a crush of bodies snaking towards the train station through metal barricades. About 176,000 passengers had been due to pass through the station on Monday alone.
— People’s Daily,China (@PDChina) February 2, 2016
“There are too many people and it is too crowded,” one stranded passenger, who was not named, told state broadcaster CCTV.
Local media said the situation was so severe that authorities declared a “level two emergency” and deployed more than 2,600 security guards to watch over the throng.
Guangzhou police chief Xie Xiaodan and Chen Rugui, a senior Communist party leader, were also dispatched to the scene in a bid to avert rioting and stampedes.
A fatal stampede on Shanghai’s historic riverfront Bund on 31 December 2014 claimed dozens of lives and sparked a major political scandal in China’s skyscraper-packed financial capital.
This week’s poor weather has complicated what is already a hugely strenuous time for Chinese authorities.
The 40-day New Year travel rush – which began in late January and is often described as the greatest annual human migration on earth – is expected to see Chinese travellers make more than 2.91bn journeys this year.
Many of those on the move are migrant workers returning from factories in China’s manufacturing heartlands, in the region around Guangzhou, to their homes in the rural interior.
Stranded travellers took to social media to vent their frustration at the travel chaos.
“Just getting back home is so difficult,” one wrote on Weibo, China’s Twitter. “People have to stand in the rain for more than 10 hours.”
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