Beijing says lights out early to ease power crunch

BEIJING Tue Feb 5, 2008 7:32am GMT

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing, in solidarity with millions of people facing the Lunar New Year without power, will turn off thousands of "holiday lights" lining the capital's main streets each night an hour earlier than usual.

Along with lifting a ban on residents letting off firecrackers, Beijing has celebrated the week-long new year holiday in recent years by festooning city streets, buildings and trees with thousands of fairy lights.

The capital, unaffected by the coldest weather to hit parts of southern and central China in 100 years, would reduce its nightly holiday illuminations from six hours to five, Tuesday's Beijing Times said, citing the city's Municipal Administration Commission.

The measure was in line with an order from China's cabinet, the State Council, to conserve electricity while "ensuring the capital's Spring Festival holiday atmosphere", the commission said on its Web site (www.bjmac.gov.cn).

China, which struggles to provide electricity for its 1.3 billion people at the best of times, has been hit hard by unusually freezing weather that has killed dozens in the lead-up to the Year of the Rat.

Whole cities in the south have had their power and electricity cut off for more than a week and at least 11 workers have been killed trying to repair broken power lines.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Nick Macfie and Alex Richardson)

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