Tuesday, January 05, 2010

China: Motorists trapped for hours in snow

The heavy snow which enveloped Beijing on Sunday created more than a few traffic jams. However some motorists were unluckier than others after the Badaling expressway was effectively closed for several hours. Thousands were trapped on the road, some reportedly for over 12 hours. According to one report in the Beijing Evening News nearly 50 abandoned their buses to walk the 10 kilometres to the nearest railway station in order to get home by train.

One woman told the paper that her parents who had joined a guided tour were left stranded on the highway from late Saturday evening until midday Sunday. Ms Yue said there were worries that the heating on the bus would break down as temperatures plummeted. The travel agency sent another bus to take the passengers back but it too was trapped before even entering the expressway. About 50 passengers abandoned the bus at 11 am and walked along the expressway for about 10 km in the harsh wind and snow to take the train from Nankou railway station.

There were reports of price gouging as some seized the opportunity to sell hot water and food at inflated prices. An officer from the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau told the Global Times that the Badaling expressway had not been closed and that many police had been dispatched to direct traffic. However, the Badaling expressway remained stationary throughout Sunday with hundreds of trucks, buses and cars unable to move [pictured]. The jam stretched more than 25 km from Beijing's 6th ring road to the Great Wall at Juyongguan which reported the heaviest snow around the capital. 

It is unclear if traffic had began to move by Monday, though by late Sunday snow ploughs were seen on the streets. In the city of Beijing itself bus services were cancelled and most commuters took to the subway. Slippery road conditions have resulted in fewer taxis on the road, with many drivers fearful about damaging their only source of income. Municipal workers and members of the public have set to clearing snow from pavements as well as roads. Conditions remain hazardous especially for pedestrians and Beijing TV news last night reported that more than 100 people had been hospitalised on Sunday after breaking legs. Temperatures remain low with daytime highs of -8 degrees Celsius and night-time lows of -20 Celsius. The cold spell will remain for some time to come and more snow is expected on Friday.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China 

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