China Focus: Hainan Airlines to increase flights to ease China's island traffic jam

Source: Xinhua| 2018-02-23 23:01:38|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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HAIKOU, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- Hainan Airlines said Friday it would deploy wide-body aircrafts and increase flights to help ease traffic jams for ferries in south China's Hainan Province.

The airline said it would add 88 flights with nearly 10,000 seats from Feb. 23 to March 2 to help transport stranded passengers on the island.

Passengers are heading home after spending their Spring Festival holiday on the island. Hainan, known for its tropical climate and clean air, is a popular destination for Chinese tourists in winter.

According to the local government, about 90,000 vehicles containing over 400,000 tourists had arrived on the island during this year's Spring Festival holiday lasting from Feb. 15 to Feb. 21.

Shipping on the Qiongzhou Strait, the only way for cars to leave the island for Guangdong, was suspended Wednesday night due to heavy fog. Ferries resumed Thursday morning as visibility improved.

More than 21,000 vehicles and 102,000 passengers were shipped to Guangdong across the strait from Hainan between Thursday morning and Friday morning.

Although the local government issued several warnings on bad weather and traffic at ports, queues continued as more vehicles tried to cross to Guangdong via the strait.

As of 7:30 p.m. Friday, over 12,000 vehicles remained stuck in the seemingly endless traffic jam.

"I prefer waiting in line than wandering around. I want to go home as soon as possible," said a passenger surnamed Mo from southwest China's Sichuan Province.

The city's traffic authorities said heavy fog, Spring Festival travel rush, and an accident on the shipping route all compounded the situation, and estimated that the traffic jams would continue for another two days.

Local authorities said the Spring Festival travel rush would last until March 10.

Hainan was among the top 10 domestic destinations during this year's Spring Festival. The island received 5.67 million tourists during the holiday week, up 10 percent on last year.

A local government official who declined to be named revealed that the government did not have a plan for such severe traffic jams caused by multiple adverse conditions. Relevant departments had failed to test their capacity to handle such a large number of drivers.

The extraordinary gridlock also brought up an old topic that has troubled Hainan for a long time. Whether to build an undersea tunnel or a bridge over the Qiongzhou Strait?

Supporters think the link will boost the local economy, while opponents argue it will lead to more traffic.

According to Gu Gang, executive vice mayor of Haikou, the city is considering setting up a ferry waiting area in the suburbs to avoid future gridlock.

Many tourists have suggested selling ferry tickets online in advance. Those without tickets would not then rush to the ports, and the traffic jams could be alleviated.

The civil affairs bureau of Haikou has sent water, food and quilts to stranded passengers to help them get through another night.