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No holiday for Chinese stranded

  • Story Highlights
  • Stranded by snowstorms, Chinese factory workers miss annual holiday
  • Factories entertaining staff with games, movies, contests
  • At least 60 people have died in severe winter weather in China
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From CNN's Hugh Riminton
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ZHONGSHAN, China (CNN) -- Luo Miao plays ping-pong with her fellow factory workers, trying to get her mind off her family who will be spending this Lunar New Year without her.

People cram into the station in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.

Luo and more than 120,000 other factory workers in and around this southern Chinese industrial town were unable to board trains and get home for the annual holiday, also called "Spring Festival," which began on Thursday.

It is the only time all year that the factory workers can leave their jobs and spend time with their families, who live hundreds of miles away.

In an effort to brighten the employees' spirits, some of the factories -- all closed ahead of the holiday -- have organized games, movies, and contests for the workers.

"I feel very sorry for a lot of these workers, it is very sad," said Catherine Yang, managing director of a high-tech development zone in Zhongshan.

"We want to make the workers feel happy, to feel it is home, to have the Spring Festival in the factory."

Luo's family lives 500 miles (800 km) north in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province, the hardest hit by China's freak winter storm that began on January 10.

Like the other workers, Luo -- who is only 18 -- will have to wait until next year to see her family.

"I was absolutely not able to push myself through the crowds," she said, describing her attempt to get on a train at the nearby Guangzhou train station.

"People couldn't move at all. I could hardly breathe."

The nearly 500,000 people who descended upon Guangzhou's train station have now cleared, although there is still a backlog of tens of thousands of travelers. Video Watch the account of one traveler lucky to make it home »

The snow storm is expected to gradually ease in the next five days before a milder snow and rainy weather hits the southern region, forecasts show.

Slowly, the country seems to be getting back on its feet.

The government has already estimated damage from the storm at more than $7 billion. And the more pressing concern was getting supplies such as heating oil and food to areas that had lost power and been cut off days ago.

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The storm struck 19 out of 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in the Chinese mainland, China's state-run Xinhua news agency said. It has been blamed for 63 deaths -- 25 of them when a bus slipped off a mountain in icy conditions in southwestern Guizhou province.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs said at least 223,000 homes have been crushed and another 862,000 damaged, according to Xinhua. Nearly 1.8 million people have been relocated in the past two weeks, Xinhua said.

Only 30,000 of Zhongshan's 150,000 workers were able to leave the industrial town to get home for the holiday.

Some of those left behind can watch free movies and participate in tug-of-war contests, treasure hunts, three-legged races -- even a beer-drinking contest -- to celebrate Spring Festival.


Tears welling in her eyes, Luo described the disappointment of not being able to squeeze through the crowds at Guangzhou and get on a train to see her family, whom she left behind last year to work at the factory.

"I called my family and cried," she said. "I really wanted to go home." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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