|About 9,000 passengers were stranded at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport by 7 am on Wednesday after fog forced the airport to close at 2:30 am. (China Daily/Lu Junming)|
Thick fog forced the busiest airport in western China to close for eight hours on Wednesday, stranding as many as 15,000 passengers just as people rush to get home for Spring Festival.
The fog reduced visibility at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport to as low as 30 meters early Wednesday morning, forcing the airport to close at 2:30 am, according to Lu Junming, a publicity official of the airport. Eight flights were canceled, and more than 700 other flights were delayed.
Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport is the fifth-busiest airport in China and handled 31.5 million passenger trips last year, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
The airport issued warnings against flight delays in the morning and took contingency measures, such as asking airlines to arrange more large airplanes and providing food and water to stranded passengers.
Passengers remained in good order, Lu said.
"The airport will operate overnight and all delayed flights for Wednesday are expected to be cleared by 5 am on Thursday," he said. "Thursday's flights will not be affected."
Fog will not occur in Chengdu on Thursday, and it will rain, according to weather authorities.
The number of stranded passengers was reduced to about 5,000 on Wednesday afternoon, Lu said.
"Buses are being dispatched to take passengers to hotels to rest," netizen Xuan Dudu said on Sina Weibo, a popular micro-blogging platform.
The longest closure of the airport in recent years happened during the peak travel season around Spring Festival. The surging number of people, heading home for family reunions during the most important traditional festival in China, worsened the disruption caused by the fog, according to the airport.
A total of 3.4 billion trips are expected to be made within the 40-day travel peak that started Jan 26, including 35.5 million trips by air, according to transport authorities.
Transport authorities, including those for trains and road transport, have taken contingency measures, such as increasing transport capacity, to ensure smooth operation during the peak travel season.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China also issued a notice late last year requiring airports to intensify safety inspections and improve distribution of flights.
About 10,000 passengers were stranded at Kunming Changshui International Airport and 440 flights were canceled due to heavy fog on Jan 3, which led to chaos and even fights between travelers and security staff. Later the airport apologized for failing to release timely information on updated flight schedules and provide adequate services.
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