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Ticket scalpers thrive in China's frozen transport chaos

by Staff Writers
Guangzhou, China (AFP) Feb 5, 2008
Ticket scalpers were thriving Tuesday around Guangzhou Railway Station in south China, as thousands vied for scarce seats on trains heading out ahead of the most important holiday of the year.

With tickets a valuable commodity, unscrupulous vendors have emerged here to prey on stranded travellers, desperate to go home after the worst weather to hit the region in decades disrupted trains.

The scalpers prowled the outskirts of the station where tens of thousands of travellers, mostly migrant workers, remained Tuesday hoping their luck would turn enough to allow them to board a train before the Lunar New Year holiday.

"They are thieves! The tickets were sold out long ago so we couldn't get them. Now I have no choice but to buy from these people," said one worker after paying double for tickets to Hubei province, north of Guangzhou.

"It's terrible for them to take advantage of people who need to go home!" said another incensed worker who also paid twice the usual amount.

An AFP journalist saw tickets routinely being sold at a 100-percent mark-up of the face value.

"We thought it would cost a lot but not this much," said another worker who paid 80 percent more. "If it was not for the New Year, we wouldn't have done it."

For many workers, the Lunar New Year is their only chance of escape to their families after toiling throughout the year in the factories, but the crippling weather has led to a massive backlog of travellers in places like Guangzhou.

The blizzards and icy temperatures that have lasted nearly three weeks have stranded millions of people at airports, train stations and bus depots in south, central and eastern China.

To clear the logjam of travellers, the authorities stopped selling tickets nearly a week ago.

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Limited Economic Impact But Chief Meteorologist Says China Unprepared For Weather
Guangzhou, China (AFP) Feb 4, 2008
China's chief meteorologist admitted Monday the country was not prepared for the severe winter weather that has stranded millions of people struggling to get home for Lunar New Year.

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