Power lights up life in biting cold

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HARBIN: Winter is a slack season for most Chinese construction workers, but it is not the case for Qu Changliang and his pals. Qu, an electrician, is busy installing high-voltage wires in the city of Hegang, northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province. The 5-km-long 35- kV project covering 22 base towers will provide power for local enterprises. “Construction in winter won’t affect agricultural production, so it’s the best time for us,” he said. While many factories have halted production and farmers are resting at home for the Chinese New Year, electricians are straining every nerve to ensure power supply in the biting cold. Located in the northeastern corner of China, Hegang has seen the outdoor temperatures drop to below minus 20 degrees Celsius, but Qu cannot wear thick clothes, because it would be too heavy and clumsy for him to climb on the towers to work. The wind on towers up to 50 meters tall is much stronger and colder than on the ground, and Qu has to keep working to avoid getting numb. “Sometimes when I cannot feel my hands, I pat them on iron poles or put them in my clothes for a while,” he said. Lunch is also a challenge. He has to be as fast as possible before the food freezes, and cannot drink much water to avoid going to the toilet while working on the towers. “Most of us have stomach problems,” he said. Their work lasts 10 hours till 5 p.m. when darkness falls. In the city of Fuyuan, power safety inspector Wang Jiaqing and his colleagues set off at 5 a.m. to Heixiazi, a Sino-Russian border island. They have more than 50 power poles to check, the hardest section located in the wild. They have to trek on a thick layer of snow through the vast areas of marsh and bush, where wild animals often linger. “The snow last year was even heavier,” said Wang. Arriving at one pole, Wang’s colleague, Gao Junbao, takes out his telescope, watches carefully and finds a loose wire. He ties a belt, puts on grapplers and climbs up the pole to fix it. – The Daily Mail-People’s Daily News exchange item