Passengers are stranded at Xianyang International Airport in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province Wednesday, as dense fog swamped the region. Photo: IC
Weather forecasters say a new wave of snow and rain will batter the country in the coming days, putting more pressure on transportation authorities as foggy weather in northern China has already affected chunyun, or the Spring Festival travel rush.
Since Wednesday morning, dense fog has grounded more than 200 flights at Xianyang International Airport in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, according to local authorities.
Reducing visibility to less than 100 meters, the fog had led to the delay or cancellation of 207 flights, stranding more than 14,000 passengers, the airport's operators told the Xinhua News Agency.
Many parts of north China experienced heavy mist on Tuesday. Fog descended on the capital Tuesday night. The municipal weather department issued a warning and forecast it would not clear till today.
Zhou Yuheng, a public relations manager of a Beijing-based company, planned to fly back to Xi'an Wednesday, but the flight was canceled due to the fog.
"The next flight available will take off on Spring Festival (January 23) because all tickets before the festival have been sold out, and it is too late to book train tickets. Many passengers were angered and frustrated," Zhou said.
The Beijing Times reported that 15 flights were cancelled due to bad weather on Tuesday at the Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA).
However, an employee of the news center of the airport told the Global Times that the number of cancellations reported by the Beijing Times was inaccurate.
"The BCIA is operating normally. It is not necessary to make announcements on the cancellations because the number is still at a manageable level," he said, without disclosing the exact number of affected flights.
Meanwhile, the fog also disrupted other forms of transportation.
Railway authorities in Zhengzhou, Henan Province blamed the fog for causing a bullet train to lose power on a stretch of track near the city, which halted traffic on the Beijing-Guangzhou line for nearly five hours.
The fog reduced visibility in some areas in Zhengzhou to less than 500 meters.
Earlier this month, similar problems caused massive delays along the Beijing to Shanghai bullet train route. The Ministry of Railways (MOR) said Sunday the poor weather conditions led to a disruption in power supply and the closing down of high voltage equipment, which was taken as a self-protection measure.
China's railways will carry 235 million passengers during the 40-day Spring Festival travel rush, up 6.1 percent year-on-year, the MOR said earlier this month.
For road travelers, however, conditions may become even worse.
"I planned to drive back to my hometown, but the Hebei section of the Daqing-Guangzhou Highway is closed due to the fog, and the weather forecast said there will be snow tomorrow. I'm really concerned," Guo Wenjing, a public servant from Henan Province, told the Global Times Wednesday.
According to the number released by the Ministry of Transport (MOT), the highway system will handle 2.85 billion journeys during the travel season this year, and 43.35 million journeys will be conducted via waterway.
The National Meteorological Center of China said a new wave of cold air is approaching China and will cause rainfall and snow over the weekend in the provinces of Fujian, Guangdong, Guizhou, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Sichuan and Zhejiang.
Chongqing and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region will also be affected. Temperature in these regions will fall by four to eight degrees.
The bad weather poses a great threat to chunyun as transportation authorities predict the travel peak will also arrive this weekend.
The Ministry of Transport (MOT) said Tuesday it will dispatch vehicles and safety inspection personnel to escort the traffic flow and vowed to guarantee safety under the unfavorable weather conditions.
During the 2008 Spring Festival, a cold snap swept through large parts of China, disrupting travel and communication, and leading to the deaths of 129 people and 151.65 billion yuan ($24 billion) in losses.
Xinhua and Wen Ya contributed to this story