China has just been declared the world’s second biggest economy, and now it has a traffic jam to match.
Triggered by road construction, the snarl-up began 11 days ago and was 100km long at one point.
Reaching almost to the outskirts of Beijing, traffic continues to creep along in fits and starts. The crisis could last for another three weeks,authorities said.
In the worst-hit stretches of the road in northern China, drivers pass the time sitting in the shade of their immobilised trucks, playing cards, sleeping on the asphalt or bargaining with food vendors.
Many trucks that carry fruit and vegetables are unrefrigerated, and cargoes are assumed to be rotting.
On Sunday, the eighth day of the near-standstill, trucks moved less than 2km on the worst section, said Zhang Minghai, a traffic director in Zhangjiakou, a city about 140km northwest of Beijing.
China Central Television reported yesterday that some vehicles had been stuck for five days.
No portable toilets were set up along the road, leaving only two apparent options – hike to a service area or into the fields.
There have been no reports of violent road rage, and the main complaint heard from drivers was about villagers on bicycles selling food, bottled water to drink and heated water at grossly inflated prices.
A bottle of water was selling for 10 yuan, 10 times the normal price, Chinese media reports said.
The traffic jam built up on the Beijing-Tibet highway, on a section that links the capital to the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia.