Soldiers combat Chinese snow chaos

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The Independent Online

Nearly half a million soldiers have been sent to clear roads as China struggles to cope with winter storms that have halted transport during the country's most important holiday travel period.

The worst snow and ice for five decades have struck much of central and eastern China for more than two weeks, causing dozens of deaths, damaging buildings and forcing roads and airports to close.

Electricity shortages hit the country's centre as snow and ice weighed down the power lines, causing them to snap and the pylons to topple.

Hundreds of thousands of travellers have been stranded at stations after electric trains were halted, leaving them unable to return home for the lunar new year holiday – the only time most migrant workers get to see their families. James Sung, a political scientist at the City University of Hong Kong, said that China's leaders were slow to respond to the massive travel hold-up and the events exposed the country's faulty infrastructure. "They didn't think it would be this bad," Mr Sung said.

For the second day, Premier Wen Jiabao visited affected regions to display Communist Party concern. "All levels of government are working on getting electricity restored. After that, transport will resume," he said.