It was a disaster for the whole nation. It was a challenge to the Chinese people's willpower. We have stood the test and will triumph over it, though not without paying a price.
The snow and sleet storms that have ravaged half of the country for three weeks are dying down, though weather authorities predicted yesterday that moderate snowfalls and rain would continue in southern provinces next week.
According to statistics announced over the weekend, the disaster has wreaked havoc in 19 provinces, causing economic losses of 53.8 billion yuan ($7.27 billion) and 60 deaths. But the courage, discipline, unity and mutual love the Chinese people demonstrated in their battles against the wretched weather greatly dwarfed the might of the elements.
Blizzards may not be uncommon for countries and regions at high latitudes, but they are rare for people who live in the central and southern provinces. The recent snowfalls in those places were the heaviest in a century. People were unprepared and public utilities proved vulnerable to the freezing weather. To make things worse, the humid climate there turned snow and sleet into an icy veneer, coating roads and power transmission lines.
When the bad weather paralyzed highways, railroads and flights and led to power cuts, some sections of the public panicked. But after they learned from media reports about the overall situation, they realized that the difficulties and inconveniencies they were suffering were not their personal or community agony, but rather part of a disaster facing the whole nation.
They began to regard their struggles as part of the broader, nationwide battle with nature. Whether they were passengers stranded in buses stuck on highways, power grid workers knocking the ice off transmission lines, water plant technicians who worked overnight to repair burst pipelines or coal miners who worked round-the-clock to meet the need of fuel-hungry power plants, they all knew they were backed by the whole nation.
Though the northern part of the country was not affected, people there were as concerned as their compatriots in the south. Army troops, police officers and government officials appeared on highways to remove snow and ice and gave hot food and water to stranded passengers; employees of power and water plants overcame difficulties to maintain normal supplies of utilities; transportation workers raced against time to deliver relief materials to disaster-hit areas.
Their selfless devotion to the emergency work and the disaster-affected people's cooperation with the government's efforts proved that Chinese people have kept the tradition of subordinating individual interests to those of the nation despite the fact that China's economic life has basically become market-oriented. Yesterday, the central government ordered power companies in northern provinces to send workers to Hunan to help repair disrupted power grids. The workers set off immediately, without any complaints, even though they knew the emergency mission would mean that they would not be able to spend Spring Festival, which is three days away, with their families at home.
Quite a few people have sacrificed their lives. For example, seven workers attempting to repair a power line died when the pylons they were working on fell because of the heavy snow.
The disaster struck at a time when many Chinese people are heading home for the lunar yearend reunion with their loved ones. The blizzards did not prevent them from going home. On the Beijing-Zhuhai Highway, many passengers were stranded for several days, but they still remain confident in the government's rescue effort.
(China Daily 02/04/2008 page4)