mmm … mits!

I thought perhaps there was a mistake, alas (or yay!) no; as I ate breakfast, it was warming up to -19.7º. And so, having put off for long enough the unavoidable, I rode southwards, not in search of warmer climes, just a nice pair of winter gloves for cycling please.

Stumbling into Fahhrad Frank on Torstr, I found my perfect winter friends. And so, winter, I shake my clam-like mits at you and mock your pathetic attempts to suffer fingertips with frostbite. Even better, I can pre-warm them and have 8-10 hours of hand-hot-watertbottles. It’s quite depraved.

Shall have to buy a hat now to avoid losing ears, however.

waiting at the train station

Half a million people stuck in the Guangzhou Train Station, over 100 trains carrying thousands of people each stranded in the worst winter snowstorms in 50 years, a million houses destroyed or damaged, power outages in more than half of China’s provinces, and two million troops deployed to deal with it. Even Wen Jiabao came to Guangzhou and apologised.

I guess I’m blogging it again today because I’ve been hearing from Guangzhou and besides a bit on SBS World News website, there has been no coverage of this in the Australian media.

China: Storm in the way home

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008 @ 03:52 UTC
by Bob Chen

It’s just a 20-hour travel, but I have lost contact with my 3 kids for 3 days! The train must have been stranded in somewhere unknown, in the wild far from any station. The only cell-phone text message they sent yesterday told that they were out of money, the train short of food and hot water. Anyone could help me!?

A worried mother posted an aid-seeking message on 8 days ago, asking for information regarding her three children who set out for home before the snowstorm by rail. Their whereabouts, along with that of the train, had lost. This kind of posts flooded on the many net forums these days, while most replies, despite compassionate greetings, could deliver no help, as during the most serious snowstorm China met in as long as 50 years, there were over 40 thousand passengers were stranded along the Beijing-Guangzhou railway at the peak, hard to contact.

Because of the continuous sleet and freezing rain, the power lines in Hunan province were overwhelmed by the frozen rain, and under the unusual weight, a lot of power pylons were toppled by the ice.

Collapsed power line, ice covered.
Collapsed power line, ice covered.

The power failure bogged down most of the trains, which were led by electric locomotive, along the Beijing-Guangzhou line, and further paralyzed all but the entire north-south railway artery. To make the matter worse, it ran into the busiest traffic season in China, the Chinese New Year, when millions of people that had worked hard for the whole year were looking forward to a reunion at hometown. They, most of them migrant workers, would usually jostle and bustle in the carriages as crowded as sardine cans to go home. But this year the travel was far more hard.

A train stranded
A train stranded

Many train passengers didn’t know the situation until they found themselves motionless in the wild for many hours. A netizen recorded his terrible experience.

We set out on 27th. There were about 2 times as many passengers as allowed (very usual as most passengers buy stand tickets to save money. —translator). In the evening we arrived in Hunan and the progress was punctuated by stoppages, some of which lasted 4 to 5 hours. The whole Hunan was covered by the ice, like a huge sugar-glazed-haw (a kind of snack). The sleet, chilly and thick, kept falling. The carriages were crowded. We tried not to drink much because to go the toilet we had spend 10 minutes to hustle through people…… There were as if people under the feet, and people above the head.

The smell stink as if hundreds of men exhaling to you without brushing their teeth.

The situation continued till the next night. The food carts were not seen anymore and we had nothing more to eat. The water tank dried too and soon the heating stopped. Complaints turned into vituperations. Somebody smashed the window to jump out. People came to be so testy that a casual controversy would turn to be a fight. Outside the window it was wholly dark. The cold rain persisted. No one knew where we were.

The train was like a prison. Everybody were impulsed to flee out of it……

There used to be 130 trains going like this, waiting on the track. The airproof carriages and the shortage of supply would drive passengers to the merge of insanity.

Chinanews reported that in a 128-seat carriage over 200 travelers were crushed in. During the 30-hour delay in an unfrequented small station, a man yelled to the trainmen that he was being pursued and killed. Another man reported people around tried to hocus him.

A train police said they had to spend half an hour to go through simply one carriage, because there was hardly a space to set the foot on. Meanwhile, they had to sooth the nervous passengers and stop those trying to break the windows and jump out. To all the people on train, it was quite an uneasy challenge.

The waiting drove people to desperation, especially when a 12-hour travel was prolonged to be over two days, as in many cases. Those stranded on the way dreamed of warm home and a greeting from the anxious families. But those still stayed in the railway station, on the contrary, would spend everything to board on a train. Affected by the paralyzed railway, over half a million passengers were congested in the railway hub of Guangzhou, a southern metropolis.

Crowded, crazy; gigantic flow of noise and hordes of confused people. Even this can’t tell how the hell on earth has been.

Guangzhou Station
Guangzhou Station

A passenger recorded what he went through in the station:

I walked out of the D2 exit, and could not help but marveled at the place I saw. Such a packed crowd, so noisy, people crying, shouting, smiling, voices were everywhere. Endless heads in front of me, all black heads.

I felt a flood-like power behind me and was helplessly pushed forward, staggering. I had to walk aside, and then found a girl had fallen down ahead, with a bag on the back, hardly climbing up. An imploration glistened in her eyes, face flushed, as if going to cry out hard: “don’t jostle, you step on me!” The weak voice was so faint among the seas of crowd.

Saving trampled passengers
Saving trampled passengers

Another netizen told his terrible experience:

Even though I don’t close my eyes, I could clearly see the scenes I witnessed last night at the Guangzhou station. Screaming, people falling down, people crying, people waiting, and the tread, broken, scattered luggage packs.

Thousands of people piled up at the east side of the square. I was clamped among the crowd. Some beside me took pains to make out a little space for the metal pails on which they could rest. A covey of military police organized a flesh wall. Police then stood still to form a laneway through it. They called the sitting people to stand up. If the crowd surged up, they might have no chance to do so.

11 pm. People surged forward. Some ahead shouted that some was pushed down. But no one listened to that, people marching on. An elder tripped over before me, and I took a chance to pull him up, while all he took with him had been rolled to under the stream, including a big pan. A kid tripped over too and I again pulled him up. Shouting such as “Some got stepped” and “stop” never ceased. But of course, no one stopped. To those who had waited for a few days, a stop was impossible.

I was dragged forward for about ten meters before I found myself out of the crowd. A woman was crying hard that her kid was not out. 3 to 4 people were also crying in hysterics, calling for the names of their families. The luggage scattered around and some were trampled to be a mess.

According to a report, one passenger was trampled to death. Singly on 31st, January, more than 100 passengers fell in faint due to hunger, cold and congestion.

Guards holding waves of crowd
Guards holding waves of crowd

Expecting to go home, many migrant workers would cancel the rented houses by the end of the year, which means they had to take the station plaza as a shelter during the several days’ suspending. Bone-chilling drizzle trembled them; shortage of food stirred their stomachs; extreme crowd jam choked them. At chilly night, they cuddled up under the pedestrian bridge, some lucky men going to the temporary shelter set by the government. But these were not the reasons of giving up the hope to go home.


Accordingly, the food price around the station was going up. 30 RMB for each set of fast food. 5 RMB per bottle of water. There were so many people concentrating, and so hard to find somewhere to relieve oneself. Someone made it at where they waited. The sanitation was so bad.

Mr. Sheng, along with his 2 colleagues, prepared straw mats and quilts, sleeping under a bridge near the station for 4 days, awaiting the train. Ms. Sun, a migrant worker, 36, had been waiting with her 8-year-old daughter inside the railing and barriers overnight. An apple and a piece of bread were all that they had. They, as well as most passengers, dared not to go out of the plaza once getting in, because they feared that they wouldn’t be so lucky to jostle back. Because of the limited space, most people had to stand on feet, and the only way to comfort the sleepy eyes was to nap for a while upon a shoulder of a stranger nearby. source

Therefore, the waiting was a challenge, both physical and mental. The temporary medical post was super busy on taking care of both passengers and station staffs, including police and volunteers.

Tired soldiers. They can only have 4 hours’ sleep a day.
Tired soldiers. They can only have 4 hours’ sleep a day.

These days, the whole city was mobilized. A great many police, guards, military police and even soldiers were mustered to control the powerful flood of crowd. They organized flesh walls to hold out waves of anxious people, keeping the order. A mass donation has been launched to help those stranded at the station, and many volunteer workers were dispatched to the front line.

Guangzhou, and the southern region, was trying its best to comfort the migrant workers, who have been contributed so much to the prosperity of the coastal cities.

Premier Wen Jiabao was inspecting the station.
Premier Wen Jiabao was inspecting the station.

It was a national disaster. But even the most staggering statistical number (the billions of loss, millions of affected people) could not tell how deeply a heart of going home was ravaged. But who could deny, on the other hand, that the unbelievable snowstorm reunioned the whole country again, the entire society fighting together because we share the same dream of going home?

Pictures from,, Southern Metropolis Daily, Xinkuai, Tianya

— Global Voices Online

冯三七 canton disaster relief blogging

John is responsible for much of my email. He only knows this now. But I read it all, after-all, I was the one who said to him, “spam me with g-town stuff I might wanna blog”, while wistfully nostalgia-ising over my favourite city. I don’t really read the Australian news anymore, or only in the same juvenile context I read trash-mags, so I suppose the storms and floods and other sundry disasters sweeping Lingnan have gone mostly unregarded, though I was sitting in BBQ-heaven a couple of weeks ago (that goes by the completely untranslated name of 大家好…somethingsomething) and watching Hong Kong news while doing a poor commentary on the floods in Sichuan to everyone else at the table, so I guess the news reached some Australians.

Once in the monsoon season in Guangzhou I schlepped into computer city somewhere along Tianhe Road, it was a sultry afternoon, heavy with lighting, more liquid than air. Maybe twenty minutes later I emerged into absolute blackness, not just the blackness of night that exists at a distance, but an enshrouding vacuum rendering dead even buildings mere blocks away. The deluge itself obliterated what remained, and having nowhere to go submerged the wide street thigh deep in a murky yellow-brown swamp, added to by exploding manhole covers and fat geysers of raw sewerage from swollen drains, a street became a torrent. 洪水猛兽, a deluge is a wanton beast.

China: Where’s the disaster relief blogging?

Apparently internet video is huge and growing in China these days. Yes, people want to see video. Interested in citizen reporting that’s relevant but perhaps apolitical? How about the weather?

Back to, now the top Chinese video sharing website. Like Flickr, the space it provides for reader involvement is often used—abused?—for larger discussions. Looking at’s current events channel, the fifth post from the top contains video, photos and personal accounts uploaded by users. Is it blogger coverage of the massive destruction seen all over southern China—where, from Guangzhou, is based—earlier this month? No, these videos, photos and accounts, although posted this past week, all date back to last summer when Saomai, the strongest typhoon to pass through China since the Communist Party seized control [zh], ripped through the country’s coastal east and south.

So where to find live disaster blogging from this past month’s catastrophe? This blogger has looked but still doesn’t know. Is Chinese media coverage sufficient? Project Diaster’s video blog seems to only bring us training videos and clips from old TV shows. So what’s the problem?

— John Kennedy – Global Voices Online


splat …

Fat snotty lumps of snow pushed down the river from the breeze as it coiled over the hills above Zürich, driven lake-ward by a lurking, soot heavy storm front. There’s nothing quite like getting slapped in the face by the first frigid snows of winter.

hurricane frances and storms in sichuan

It’s really cool to have a hurricane with your name on it, even if it has been ‘down-graded’ to a tropical storm. But while Florida is whining about being ‘almost shut-down’ by a bit of a shower and stiff breeze, and we get to see beautiful saturated colour satellite photos of Hurricane Frances swinging over Miami, the big floods and storms in Sichuan show that if you don’t have a catchy name, you don’t get the column inches. A quick search on Google shows 90 deaths and 77 missing from a no-name storm gives 192 news items, but two deaths and many squashed oranges from a hurricane with a name as good as mine gives… oh… i lost count after 4185.

Reuters has this to say about Hurricane Frances:

The hurricane virtually shut down the fourth-largest U.S. state, home to 16 million people, for two days and promised damage not only to buildings but to the state’s economy on the usually busy Labor Day weekend, normally an end-of-summer bonanza for Florida’s $53 billion tourism industry.

The state’s largest population center and big Latin American business hub, Miami, escaped the worst of the storm but the impact on Orlando, the main tourist playground, was uncertain as massive Frances lumbered across central Florida.

The $9.1 billion citrus industry, badly damaged by Hurricane Charley three weeks ago, was likely to take another hard blow as the storm moved across the state’s best growing regions.

And this to say about the storm and floods in Sichuan:

Floods and landslides have killed 76 people in southwest China in the past four days and washed away homes and roads, knocked down power lines and cut off at least one city, state media said on Monday.

“We’ve never seen such heavy flooding,” a government official said.

Heavy rain sparked flash floods and mud and rock flows in the southwest province of Sichuan, destroying crops and severing transport links, Xinhua news agency said, citing provincial disaster relief officials.

At least 55 people were killed in Sichuan, with 52 missing, and at least 21 people were killed in the city of Chongqing, to the east of Sichuan and 900 miles south of Beijing.

No immediate respite was in sight with rain expected through Tuesday, provincial officials said.

The most destructive storms this year had battered Dazhou, Nanchong and Bazhong cities since Thursday, Xinhua said.