January 31, 2008 / 4:15 AM / 12 years ago

Getting trapped doesn't take its toll

Vehicles are stuck in a traffic jam along a major thoroughfare in the central business district of Beijing January 29, 2008. REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV

BEIJING (Reuters) - Stuck on snow-clogged highways for days and subsisting on instant noodles, some of the thousands of people stranded in cars and trucks in southern China have one less reason to complain — they do not have to pay road tolls.

As heavy snows continue to pummel wide swathes of southern and central China, Guangxi’s traffic bureau announced it had allowed more than 3,000 cars to enter the region “free” to ease

the strain on a major trunk road, Xinhua news agency said on Thursday.

It had ordered toll stations along the border with Hunan, one of the most severely hit provinces, not to charge cars coming in from “evacuation routes” starting from Wednesday at noon, Xinhua said.

The amnesty may be short-lived, however, as it was granted to comply with a directive to “work hard to guarantee the complete evacuation of cars trapped on the Beijing-Zhuhai highway within 24 hours,” Xinhua quoted the office as saying.

The worst snows in 50 years in southern China have hit as tens of millions of people attempt to return home to celebrate the Lunar New Year with families. More than 60 people have been

killed in snow-related accidents.

In Anhui, Guangxi’s compassion had not proven quite so infectious.

Road tolls on snow-clogged roads were also lifted there, but only for cars carrying fuel products, food and “other necessities,” the provincial disaster authority said.

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Nick Macfie and David Fox

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