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Cablegate: Trains Resume, Conditions Improve for Stranded Guangzhou

VZCZCXRO5836
RR RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHGZ #0055 0310713
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 310713Z JAN 08
FM AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6839
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASH DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS GUANGZHOU 000055

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELTN SOCI PGOV ELAB ECON CH
SUBJECT: Trains Resume, Conditions Improve for Stranded Guangzhou
Travelers


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

1. (SBU) Summary: Conditions for Guangzhou's stranded rail
passengers have generally improved as many trains resumed service in
the last 24 hours and rain stopped. Onsite police and government
workers appeared better rested and calmer in the face of continuing
large crowds, with no new reports of disorder. Media reported many
travelers returning train tickets and canceling travel plans.
However, some migrant workers told Congenoffs they will return home
at all costs. Travelers and volunteer workers complained of
ineffective instructions and inaccurate information for those who
still plan to travel home. End summary.

Trains Start Moving; Guangzhou Weather Improves
--------------------------------------------- --

2. (U) Trains are moving again from Guangzhou's main train station
to northern destinations, and stranded passengers who continue to
wait seemed generally optimistic they would be able to board a
departing train. One report said as many as 79 trains resumed
service on January 30, with another report predicting as many as 120
trains leaving today. Despite Guangzhou Railway Group estimates of
600,000 passengers remaining stranded in the city, the company said
it can facilitate all departures within three days.

3. (SBU) Media reported 60,000 stranded train passengers continued
to wait outside Railway Station Square in the early morning of
January 31. Weather conditions have improved as rain stopped, but
temperatures remained low. People gathered in a large bus parking
lot next to the square, waiting for information and seeking entry to
the station. Train station entrances are still blocked by police,
who appeared more at ease and better rested than in the previous two
days. People's Armed Police (PAP) were still visible outside the
station, but their role seemed to have diminished in the last 24
hours compared to regular public security and traffic police forces.


More People Change Plans; Most Still Insist On Traveling
--------------------------------------------- ---------

4. (SBU) One group of middle-class travelers told Congenoff they had
stayed at inexpensive hotels for 3 days before finally giving up on
their travel plans today. News reports said 440,000 ticket refunds
were issued in Guangdong Province by late yesterday, but most
working-class travelers we spoke to said they would not be dissuaded
from traveling home this holiday season. Congenoffs noticed that
police were no longer seeking to persuade crowds or individuals,
instead focusing their efforts on single women traveling with small
children and others who might face exceptional hardships under
current travel conditions.

Detailed, Accurate Information Non-Existent
-------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) General lack of accurate information caused the greatest
frustration among travelers and volunteer workers today. The
government unexpectedly terminated free shuttle services from
shelters to departing trains late yesterday, but neither travelers
nor volunteer workers at the largest shelter seemed aware of changed
procedures. When asked where or how to board trains, police
officers and volunteers all said to go directly to the station but
were unable to provide additional details. Outside the station,
police were equally unhelpful, and crowds seemed to flow without
direction between newly-erected fences and security barriers that
police had installed overnight. Despite frustration and the lack of
travel information, the atmosphere was still one of increased calm
from previous days.

GOLDBERG

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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