Millions Stranded as China Suffers Its Coldest Winter

CHENZHOU, China -- Millions remained stranded in China on Monday ahead of the biggest holiday of the year as parts of the country suffered their coldest winter in a century.

Freezing storms have killed scores of people and left travelers stranded before the Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival -- the only opportunity many people have to take a vacation all year.

They have also brought China unwanted negative publicity six months before the Summer Olympics in Beijing.

President Hu Jintao chaired an emergency Politburo meeting on Sunday for the second time in a week to discuss rescue efforts.

"We have to be clear-minded that the inclement weather and severe disaster will continue to plague certain regions in the south," said a statement issued after Sunday's meeting. "Relief work will continue to face challenges, posing a tough task."

The Chinese weather bureau said the weather was the coldest in 100 years in central Hubei and Hunan provinces, going by the total number of consecutive days of average temperature less than 1 degree Celsius.

But it expected brighter weather ahead.

"The weather over the disaster-stricken regions is likely to turn better in the next several days, but it is still necessary to remain alert for possible low temperatures, frozen rain, snow, freezing and heavy fog," it said in a statement.

Four people died after a snow-laden roof collapsed at a fuel station in the eastern city of Nanjing on Sunday, Xinhua news agency said. One person was killed in a stampede at Guangzhou railway station in the south as people rushed to board trains.