Saturday, February 02, 2008

Snow- more than just a pretty face.

Ok, more about the snow. We just had another large fall yesterday, and yet another is scheduled for next week. The thing many people would not realise outside of China is that the worst snow to hit the country in 50 years has fallen right at the time of year when two-thirds of the population travels to their hometowns for the Chinese New Year. However due to the snow, most flights, trains and busses are cancelled (and very few people have private cars, and for those that do, a lot of the roads are closed anyway), leaving people literally stranded on the street:

Stranded travellers at the railway station in Guanzhou
(Shanghai Daily)

Yet this is really a trivial problem in the larger scheme of things. Many people have no power, heat or water in sub-zero temperatures, and the crisis is forecast to continue for at least another week, and in some area for another month.

According to the Shanghai Daily, "Experts said that the snow disaster had displaced the 1998 Yangtze River flood as the largest natural disaster in decades. The 1998 flood affected 2.3 million people." (read article)

I received today an email from an organisation called Half The Sky who provide care for orphans throughout China. The update is about the nearing desperate conditions in their orphanages during this extremely cold winter. Many of the orphanages are without power, heat, or water, and many are having trouble buying food for the children due to the inflated prices from road and transport closures.

The updates from the orphanages and family centers go on and on like this:

Chenzhou, Hunan – still facing the most difficulties of the orphanages
we've reached. They've had no electricity or running water for 8 days and
there is almost no possibility that power will be restored before New
Year's Eve (the 6th of February.) Because of the blackout, the hospital
is closed. 20 children are ill and being cared for by institution staff
as well as they can. The banks are closed so staff is contributing
personal funds to buy food, coal and diapers. Prices are skyrocketing as
all roads to Chenzhou remain impassable.
It really is a disaster unfolding almost unseen, and makes grumbling about slushy footpaths seem very selfish indeed.

For more information about Half The Sky's orphanages during these times click here.
To donate money for the crisis click here (ignore the fact that many of the donations say there are "0 in stock"- you are not buying anything, just donating money, but I assume it was set up in a hurry as part of their online shop, and the quirks are not quite ironed out).

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