More than 12,000 vehicles returning home from a week-long break remained stuck in a seemingly endless traffic jam for ferries in Hainan Province on the afternoon of February 23.
Zhao Xu, a tourist from east China's Shandong Province, was not sure if he would leave the island tonight.
His family of three spent their Spring Festival holiday on the island and found heavy traffic jams at three ports in Haikou, capital of Hainan, on February 21, so they settled down in a hotel for two more nights.
Zhao joined the long queue of waiting cars on February 23. "It's our first time on the island. It's an amazing experience, but we didn't expect the tough trip home," he said.
Shipping on the Qiongzhou Strait, between Hainan and Guangdong, was suspended February 21 night due to heavy fog. Ferries resumed on the morning of February 22 as visibility improved.
More than 21,000 vehicles and 102,000 passengers were shipped to Guangdong across the Qiongzhou Strait from Hainan between February 22 morning to February 23 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, the only way for cars to leave the island.
Heavy fog, Spring Festival travel rush, and an accident on the shipping route all compounded the situation.
"I prefer waiting in line than wandering around. I want to go home as soon as possible," said a passenger surnamed Mo from Sichuan Province.
The city's traffic authorities estimated that tens of thousands of vehicles will leave through the ports and the traffic jams will continue for another two days.
Liu Dong, head with Haikou's transport and port authority, said that 90,000 vehicles containing over 400,000 tourists had arrived on the island during this year's Spring Festival holiday.
Hainan, known for its tropical climate and clean air, is a popular destination for Chinese tourists taking winter holidays.
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 over 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 would boost the local economy, while the opponents argue that it will lead to more traffic jams on the island.
According to Gu Gang, executive vice mayor of Haikou, the city is considering setting up a ferry waiting area in the suburbs to avoid the gridlock in the future.
Many tourists suggested selling ferry tickets in advance online. 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.
(Xinhua News Agency February 23, 2018)