Warmhearted residents open doors to stranded travelers

County in Gansu offers every assistance to those trapped in snowstorm

By Ma Jingna in Jiuquan, Gansu, and Zhang Xiaomin | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-04 08:56
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Police officers provide free food for stranded travelers at a security checkpoint in Guazhou last month. [Photo for China Daily]

Sun Guangzheng had previously driven through Guazhou county, Gansu province, without giving it a second glance.

However, a sudden snowstorm last month changed his perception of the area.

"Being stranded there for one night, I immediately sensed the warmth of local people. Next time I pass through, I must be sure to return their kindness," Sun said.

Guazhou is situated southeast of Hami, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, with the Lianyungang-Horgos Expressway, an essential land route for entering Xinjiang, passing through the area.

During the Spring Festival peak travel period, traffic was held up on Feb 17 by strong winds and heavy snowfall.

With a permanent population of 130,000, of which 50,000 are urban residents, Guazhou found itself playing host to a large number of travelers whose vehicles were stranded on the expressway.

With visibility dropping to less than 20 meters, and 5 centimeters of snow covering the road, police implemented traffic controls from 5:30 pm. They helped drivers and passengers from stranded vehicles leave the expressway at the nearest toll station, or park at service areas to avoid potential danger.

Sun, 35, who comes from Heze, Shandong province, and was returning to work in Korla, Xinjiang, said, "Before the police advised us to leave the expressway, two fellow travelers and myself had been driving at snail's pace for 11 hours, covering only 100 kilometers.

"As the temperature had dropped to below minus 10 degrees Celsius, we were fortunate not to have to spend the night on the expressway."

The authorities in Guazhou introduced emergency response measures. They quickly organized accommodations and other services, with hotels, gyms, schools and local residents opening their doors to house the travelers.

The local government reported on WeChat that as of 1:11 pm on Feb 18, the county had housed some 25,000 travelers at 93 temporary accommodation points, including hotels, schools, gyms, community service centers, nursing homes and private homes.

Sun said: "From government officials to ordinary citizens, everyone made an effort to assist travelers who were unexpectedly stranded. Numerous volunteers braved the cold to escort them and provide support for those in need."

After leaving the expressway, Sun and his fellow travelers were taken to a stadium by staff members and volunteers.

Sun posted a message on the Douyin video-sharing platform warning netizens to avoid driving in the area. Shortly after doing so, he saw a post from a local resident offering spare rooms to accommodate the travelers.

"The rooms were offered by a couple and their son who own a restaurant. The family was incredibly kind, providing us with blankets, food and drinks. Another family of three also stayed at their place that night. The locals were really helpful," he said.

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