For millions of normally overworked and underpaid Chinese workers, the lunar new year, which falls on Feb. 8, is one of the few times of year they have to relax and spend time with their families.
But when the train home gets delayed, things aren’t so relaxing.
Starting Jan. 29, torrential rain and snowstorms caused severe delays at the main rail station in Guangzhou, southern China. By the afternoon of Feb 1, a crowd of over 100,000 people were held up in cold weather.
By midnight, 300,000 people had made it onto their trains, but 40,000 people were still waiting.
Mr. Zhang, one of the delayed travellers, was trying to transfer at the Guangzhou station on his way Kunming, Yunnan Province, about 600 miles to the west.
Before his departure on Feb. 1, the station began to fill up with people, Zhang told Epoch Times. Very quickly, every space was filled and it became impossible to move anywhere. Staff tried to direct the crowds but their instructions went unheeded.
Zhang was lucky: he had gotten to the station earlier than most and had a place in line for a train that was delayed by just half an hour.
But not everyone had the same luck. According to the press arm of the Guangzhou police, many travellers were delayed by over 10 hours.
Severe delays due to inclement weather are common in China. In 2008, large swaths of southern China, including Guangdong Province (where Guangzhou is located), received unexpected snowfall that held up rail traffic. Mr. Liu, a worker at a clothing factory in the city of Dongguan waited two days for a train to his home in Anhui Province.
Those who manage to get on the trains during the New Year exodus face hours or days of transit in packed cars. Passengers can expect to have to stand in the aisles, between cars, or in the public toilets.
Others, whether to avoid the brutal travel conditions or for want of money to purchase rail tickets, opt to make the trip home on foot or by motorbike.