China has issued a severe weather warning as hundreds of thousands of holiday travellers remain stranded in airports and train stationss ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday.

Severe snowstorms are forecast over much of the country, which is already reeling from transport havoc and power shortages caused by the heaviest snowfalls in decades.

Even before the new warning, State Council Premier Wen Jiabao called late yesterday for 'urgent' action to combat blackouts and transport chaos as millions of Chinese struggled to return home for the country's biggest annual holiday.

At least a dozen people died at the weekend and thousands were injured in weather-related accidents, adding to scores of deaths in preceding weeks.

Mr Wen ordered local governments to mobilise all resources to prevent further disasters, focusing special attention on protecting China's energy supplies, with several provinces already rationing electricity.

The China Meteorological Administration warned that further heavy snows or freezing rain were expected in nine provinces already suffering from the weather havoc.

Some areas have seen the heaviest snows and coldest temperatures in 50 years.

At least a dozen airports around the country were closed today due to icy conditions.

The number of passengers stuck at the train  station in the southern city of Guangzhou could swell to 600,000 today after a power failure on Saturday night stranded more than 136 electric trains in neighbouring Hunan province.