BEIJING (Reuters) - Severe winter weather is forecast to affect much of China over the next few days, potentially contributing to fresh transport problems just as millions of people return to work after the week-long Lunar New Year holiday.
The sleet, snow and gusty winds forecast on Tuesday by the National Meteorological Centre are not expected to be as serious as the heavy snowfall that blanketed much of the country over the past few weeks.
Millions of travelers were stranded ahead of what for many of them is their only chance to go home each year.
But the centre said road conditions could deteriorate as a cold front sweeps south along the eastern coast, possibly complicating travel on Tuesday, the last day of the holiday, when rural migrant workers across the country will take trains and buses to return to work.
"With temperatures falling in the morning and evening, precautions should be taken to deal with the potential negative impact of icy road conditions and similar problems," the centre said in a statement on its Web site.
Tuesday would probably be the busiest travel day since the start of the holiday, state television said. The rail network was expected to carry about 5 million passengers on Tuesday, while more than 53 million would travel by road.
Southwestern Guizhou and Yunnan provinces would probably have sleet over the next couple of days, while parts of Tibet and Qinghai, in the far west, could expect heavy snowfall, the centre said.
Meanwhile, much of the south and southwest would face rain or snow flurries, while a cold snap hits the north and northeast.
The forecasts will come as unwelcome news to the tens of millions of people affected by the storms that started late last month, causing billions of dollars in damage and killing at least 80 people.
The government had only just restored rail and road links, the power grid and food supplies in most of the country by the weekend, following what were the worst storms in decades in much of the south.
Workers had restored power to 93 percent of households that had suffered power cuts as a result of the storms, Xinhua news agency said, adding that in hard-hit Guizhou province, the grid would not be fully restored until the end of March.
China's roads are the world's deadliest, and accidents typically spike at the start and end of the holidays, when the country's infrastructure is stretched to the limit.
Six people were killed and 12 injured on Monday when a bus carrying 42 passengers crashed in Dongguan, in southern Guangdong province, Xinhua said. It cited a local government spokesman as blaming driver fatigue and speeding for the crash.
Reporting by Jason Subler and Jim Bai; Editing by David Fogarty