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Cablegate: Bad Weather Making It Hard On Stranded Guangzhou Train

VZCZCXRO4726
RR RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHGZ #0051 0300800
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 300800Z JAN 08
FM AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6832
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASH DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS GUANGZHOU 000051

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELTN SOCI PGOV ELAB ECON CH
SUBJECT: Bad Weather Making It Hard on Stranded Guangzhou Train
Travelers

REF: GUANGZHOU 0048

(U) This document is sensitive but unclassified. Please protect
accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary: As many as 200,000 stranded passengers continue to
wait at the main Guangzhou train station with most standing outside
or seeking shelter in nearby buildings. Despite deteriorating
weather conditions, the majority of travelers do not seem dissuaded
from continuing their homeward travel over the Chinese New Year. No
new incidents of public disturbance have been reported, and Premier
Wen Jiabao visited the train station to observe conditions and speak
with local leaders. End summary.

2. (SBU) Conditions worsened for the estimated 200,000 people who
remain stranded at the city's main train station. Officials believe
travel for nearly 800,000 rail, air and bus passengers has been
disrupted throughout Guangdong province. In Guangzhou, periodic
heavy rains and colder temperatures have contributed to the
atmosphere of fatigue and frustration, especially for thousands who
continue to wait outside the station. Police officers have blocked
off the plaza immediately in front of the station; huge crowds have
moved to positions underneath a highway overpass outside Railway
Station Square.

3. (SBU) Although local media reported numbers outside the square
declining on January 30 to 23,000, Congenoffs who twice visited the
station over the past 24 hours judged the area to be more crowded
and densely packed with people. Police presence continues to keep
the crowds orderly with officers dispersed throughout. A heavy
cordon of security personnel are in position at barriers in front of
all station entrances. Local media had reported a major disturbance
on January 29th; however, Congenoffs confirmed that the incident had
actually occurred the previous day, in part explaining the
significant police numbers observed yesterday.

4. (SBU) Local media reports have also indicated that 60,000 people
among the stranded passengers are sheltered in the Liuhua Convention
Center, three blocks south of the train station. Congenoffs who
visited the site on January 30 observed it to be much more crowded
than the previous day. Water and food are still available for sale
at reasonable prices. In spite of some efforts to collect garbage,
floors in the building were dirty, and no provision for cots or
sleeping arrangements had been made; many people sat or slept on
newspapers, or the bare floor.

5. (U) Premier Wen Jiabao arrived in the city on the morning of
January 30, and met with officials from the Ministry of Railways,
Guangdong PSB, and other agencies. Local media reported that Premier
Wen instructed local authorities to help ensure the supply of
electric power and food for stranded passengers.

6. (SBU) Although authorities continue to encourage passengers to
cash in rail tickets and return home, many remain determined to
complete their travel plans. Local government and businesses have
reportedly offered assistance in returning tickets, including cash
bonuses for workers willing to stay; and a local newspaper reported
that as of Tuesday, 8,000 stranded passengers had used free
transportation to return to their work place, giving up their travel
plans. However, a group of three young men and one woman told
Congenoffs that even though they had waited at the train station for
five days, they were still determined to travel back to their home
province and see their families.

GOLDBERG

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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