Driving sleet, freezing temperatures and a blanket of snow across southern China have paralysed trains and aircraft, stranding tens of millions of people trying to get home for the biggest holiday in the Chinese calendar.
The worst weather in 50 years pummelled swaths of central, southern and eastern China as migrant workers and students, business travellers and officials assigned to provincial postings battled for tickets to join their families for the lunar new year holiday.
The human tide strains public transport every year even though the authorities pull dozens of extra trains into service and lay on additional flights to try to cope. With new year's day falling on February 7 this year, the bad weather has swept China just as the number of travelers is reaching its peak.
Hundreds of thousands of those workers, many with young children, found themselves stranded at the Guangzhou railway station after snowstorms snapped power lines to passenger trains from neighbouring Hunan province, an important hub for trains on the main line between Guangzhou and Beijing.
Officials struggled to control an estimated 200,000 travellers at the station — a number expected to swell to 600,000 over the next couple of days. Temporary shelter was being arranged for the migrant workers in schools and conventions centres. Soldiers were deployed to stand guard around the station and police barked orders through bullhorns to try to maintain order.
Notice boards inside the station were a sea of red, showing that almost every train had been cancelled. Radio announcements urged people not to go to the station since most trains had been cancelled and tickets were no longer being sold until new year's day.