( dpa ) - Hundreds of thousands of snow-affected travellers were facing another night sleeping in streets, railway stations, vehicles and public buildings on Thursday, as the government tried to restore transport services and evacuate people in snow-bound villages.
Some 200,000 passengers were expected to board the 98 trains scheduled to leave on Thursday from the southern transport hub of Guangzhou, where 800,000 people were reportedly stranded on Wednesday.
But an estimated 2.5 million people had train tickets to leave from Guangzhou before China's Spring Festival, or lunar new year, which begins on February 7, the Guangzhou Daily said.
Another 50,000 rail passengers departed on Wednesday night, but it was uncertain if the entire backlog would be cleared before the festival.
The provincial government in Guangdong, of which Guangzhou is the capital, said some 500,000 migrant workers had agreed to remain in the province instead of returning home.
The newspaper said about 180,000 people were camping out near Guangzhou railway station and that fleets of buses ferried thousands more stranded passengers to several exhibition halls on Wednesday afternoon.
The city's Liuhua exhibition hall alone could accommodate 100,000 people, it said.
New passengers were still arriving but the total number of people waiting at the railway station had dropped on Thursday, the newspaper said.
Officials were trying to persuade more travellers to return their tickets and spend the holiday in Guangdong.
"For the sake of their safety, and relieving the stress on transport, I advise migrant workers to stay in the cities where they work," Zheng Guoguang, head of the China Meteorological Administration, told the official China Daily.
Weather forecasters have said the worst winter for 50 years in southern and central areas is likely to continue for several more days.
"There is an interval of reduced rainfall and snow forecast for around Saturday, but you can't expect power-cut-hit railways and icebound highways to be restored to normal immediately," Zheng was quoted as saying.
Reports said the severe weather had affected 105 million people in 17 provinces by Tuesday evening.
About 1.6 million people were evacuated to safer areas and 960,000 were still waiting for evacuation, after snow and ice caused 149,000 houses to collapse and damaged 602,000 others, China Daily said.
Another 470,000 road and rail passengers were stranded in four more central and southern provinces, the newspaper said.
The government has deployed some 500,000 soldiers and 1 million police to help restore power and transport networks.
The weather has also caused a surge in food prices, prompting the State Food and Drug Administration China's to issue an emergency circular on Wednesday ordering local inspectors to prevent the sale of poor quality or fake food items.
On Thursday, the army sent the first of four transport planes loaded with relief goods to the south-western region of Guangxi.
The People's Liberation Army donated 419,000 quilts and 219,000 padded overcoats, state media said.