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    Spring Festival Travelers Fret as Extreme Weather Arrives

    Some are bringing forward their travel plans to reduce the risk of cancellations and disruptions.

    With the world’s biggest annual human migration underway, Chinese people are bracing for disruption to their travel plans as extreme weather is set to hit almost half of the country over the next six days.

    Parts of China are likely to face their “most complicated” weather conditions during this year’s Spring Festival travel rush, known as chunyun, since 2008, the China Meteorological Administration said on Tuesday. Central and eastern areas may witness snowstorms and freezing rain until Feb. 5.

    Henan, Hubei, and Shandong provinces are forecast to see their heaviest snowfall on record for this time of year. Snow depth could reach 40 centimeters in southeastern parts of Henan, the provincial weather administration said.

    Wang Lijuan, an expert at the China Meteorological Administration, told state broadcaster CCTV that the extreme weather could cause train and flight delays. Noting an increase in people traveling by car this Spring Festival, Wang also warned of the impact of the extreme weather on road safety.

    A record nine billion trips are expected to be made during this year’s Spring Festival travel rush, which started Friday and will last until March 5. More than 90% will be made by road, officials noted.

    Tong Yijin, 24, brought his planned 12-hour drive from southern Guangdong province to his hometown in the central Hubei province forward a few days due to the worsening weather forecasts: “We are afraid that the roads will be closed due to the rain and snow.”

    Wang Ying, a 25-year-old resident of the eastern city Hangzhou, said she also took an earlier train back to her home in the eastern Shandong province to avoid risks of cancellation.

    In response to the extreme weather, China’s national railway operator has said it will introduce safety measures such as slowing down, diverting, and suspending trains to avoid accidents.

    According to the China Meteorological Administration, the disruption caused by the current extreme weather will not reach the levels seen during the 2008 winter storms, which caused major traffic disruption and left many travelers stranded during that year’s Spring Festival.

    The extreme weather will likely wane after Feb. 7, the meteorological agency predicts.

    Editor: Vincent Chow.

    (Header image: Workers clear railway tracks at Loudi Railway Station after heavy snow in Loudi, Hunan province, Jan. 22, 2024. VCG)