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inobd [Date : 2008-02-03 17:50:48 ]   
Subject China warns of 'grim' situation
"The most difficult period is still not over yet. The situation remains grim," the Chinese cabinet said in a statement reported on Saturday by The Associated Press. More snow and sleet were forecast across southern and central China.

The warning came as millions of Chinese began preparations for next week's Lunar New Year holiday period.

On Friday, heartbreaking video from the southern city of Guangzhou showed crowds of people -- many of them migrant workers --screaming, elbowing each other, in some cases sobbing and collapsing in the rush to get a slot on a train.

Police battled to keep order in chaotic scenes in the capital of southern Guangdong province. One officer lifted a small child above the crowd as the child's mother clutched the officer's coat. A woman who fainted was carried over the mob to receive medical help.

State-run news agency Xinhua reported that 95 percent of rail traffic had "returned to normal." But conditions were far from normal, with nearly a week's worth of travelers wanting to climb on board.

Local reports said hundreds of thousands of people were massed like a herd of humanity into a huge, makeshift corral larger than a football field.

Xinhua said 400,000 people were stranded at Guangzhou Railway Station on Friday, down about half from the height of the crisis.

The winter storm -- China's worst in 50 years -- has already been blamed for at least 63 deaths around the country, including at least 25 when a bus plunged off a slippery mountain road in the southwestern Guizhou province. The government has reported $7.5 billion in damage from the storm.

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