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Chinese mobilize to restore power

CHENZHOU, China – Workers rushed to restore power today to regions of China hard-hit by snow and ice storms, in a struggle that state media said has already cost the lives of 11 electricians.

Residents entered a 12th day without electricity in the central city of Chenzhou, one of the most seriously affected across a broad swath of the country battered by the worst winter storms in more than half a century.

Nearly 130,000 repair workers have been brought in to help carry out emergency repairs across the region. About 150 generator trucks have been brought in to ensure temporary power supplies, according to the State Electricity Regulatory Commission.

Water was being delivered by truck and supplies of vegetables, fruit and meat were running low. Many shops had closed and prices of what little fresh food was available had soared, along with those of candles and charcoal briquettes used for heating and cooking.

“There is no heat. We take turns to use water,” said a Chenzhou travel agent who gave only her surname, Hong. “It is extremely cold and inconvenient. I haven’t had a shower for about 10 days.”

Hong said most of the banks had closed and cash was running short in the city, which has an urban population of more than 1 million with another 3 million in the surrounding countryside. Gas pumps were not working, leading to fuel shortages.

Large parts of central and eastern China suffered blackouts after the freak storms that began on Jan. 10, paralyzing a region unused to harsh winter weather and woefully unprepared to clear ice and snow.

Official estimates have put losses to agriculture and the economy at $7.5 billion.