Bus crash kills 25 as snow chaos continues in China

( dpa ) - At least 25 people died on Tuesday when a bus plunged from an icy road in the mountainous southwestern province of Guizhou, as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited a neighbouring province to inspect the chaos caused by the worst winter for 50 years.

The overloaded bus slid off the road and fell 40 metres into a valley near Guizhou's Zunyi city on Tuesday morning, the State Administration of Work Safety said.

Wen flew to Hunan province, which borders Guizhou, on Monday night but his plane was forced by the weather to divert to an airport in nearby Hubei, state television said.

Wen completed his journey to the Hunan provincial capital, Changsha, by train on Tuesday morning.

He met provincial officials to help direct disaster relief work after the highest snowfall since 1954 in Hunan.

At least 24 people have died in buildings that collapsed under the weight of record snowfall or from falls on icy roads over the last three weeks, while dozens more have died in traffic accidents linked to snow and ice in Hunan and other provinces.

Investigators in Guizhou were examining whether traffic officials were at fault for allowing the bus to travel in such dangerous road conditions.

The vehicle was licensed to carry 35 people but 38 were on board at the time of the accident, the administration said.

Two of the 13 injured people were in serious condition at a local hospital, other reports said.

Heavy snow in recent days and unusually low temperatures had left a thick layer of ice on the road, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The civil affairs ministry said heavy snow had affected 78 million people in 14 provinces by Monday.

At least 200,000 people were stranded at the main railway station in the southern city of Guangzhou on Monday, with hundreds of thousands forced to sleep at other airports, railway and bus stations in central and southern areas.

The chaos has worsened as millions try to reach home in time for the traditional holiday over Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, which begins on February 7.

The Chinese meteorological office on Monday issued a red alert for more severe snowstorms this week in central and eastern China, including parts of Hunan and most of the eastern provinces of Anhui and Jiangsu.

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