The worst snowfalls in a decade caused traffic chaos across much of China Saturday as millions of people tried to head home for the important Lunar New Year holiday, state media reported.

Tens of thousands of travellers were left stranded as transport in several regions across the centre, east and south of the country ground to a halt due to the bad weather.

The worst-hit provinces were Anhui in the east, central Hubei and Hunan, which supply millions of migrant workers who work in the cities and return home to celebrate Lunar New Year, which this year falls on February 7.

Airports in Hunan and the eastern provinces of Jiangsu, Anhui and Jiangxi as well as highways were temporarily closed, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Many trains were delayed in Hunan along the key railway line linking Beijing with the main southern city of Guangzhou, after snow and ice damaged overhead power lines for the electric trains, Xinhua said.

About 40,000 passengers were stranded at various stations along the route, Xinhua said, quoting a spokesman for the Guangzhou Railway Group Corp. Another 50,000 were delayed at Guangzhou railway station.

He said the company had dispatched some 10,000 workers to repair the damaged power lines and sent out more than 100 diesel locomotives to pull the electric trains and transport stranded passengers.

Workers were also bringing food and water supplies to those passengers.

More than 20,000 vehicles with 60,000 people were stranded in Hunan due to the closure of the expressway linking Beijing and with Zhuhai in the southern province of Guangdong, Xinhua reported. Nearly 10,000 vehicles were also stuck in Guangdong due to the road closure.

Meanwhile, in the southwestern province of Guizhou, authorities closed several roads and a further 27,000 travellers were left waiting for buses.

Many parts of the country have been hit by the heaviest snowfalls in a decade, which have claimed at least 21 lives so far, state media reported.

The meteorological agency Friday warned of further snowfalls in central and western China over the weekend.

At the same time, the government called for agencies to get fresh goods to markets and avoid shortages, which would fuel further inflation, a major concern for the authorities.

"Transportation of fresh farm products -- including vegetables, fruits, livestock and poultry -- faces an extraordinarily grave situation as another round of widespread, continuous rain and snow will hit the country," the government said in a statement issued late Friday.

For the Chinese, Lunar New Year is the most important holiday, when hundreds of millions of people travel by road, train and plane for annual family reunions.

China is expecting more than 2.2 billion trips will be made by either rail, air or bus during the Lunar New Year travel period that runs from January 19 to March 2, state press reported.

The railways ministry forecast that a record 178.6 million passengers would travel by train over the period, up from 156 million in 2007.