Beijing - Chinese authorities warned Thursday of more travel misery to come as millions of people struggled to get home for China's most important holiday amid savage winter weather.

Across the country, millions of travellers have been stranded or delayed in the transport chaos wreaked by freezing conditions and the worst winter snow storms in 50 years.

The weather has affected at least 105 million people in all, left 64 dead, triggered a shortage of basic goods in some areas and badly hit transport and power networks, according to state media.

The government has called for calm with still more harsh weather forecast for broad swathes of central, southern and eastern China.

But with hordes of angry and desperate travellers battling to get home for next week's Lunar New Year festival, the government has taken the rare step of asking millions of migrant workers to forego their annual trip home -- often, their only bright spot in a life of hard toil and low pay.

"For the sake of their safety, and relieving the stress on transport, I advise migrant workers to stay in the cities where they work," Zheng Guoguang, chief of the China Meteorological Administration, told the China Daily.

"In normal weather conditions, it would take at least one week for full restoration of power supplies. Against the current backdrop, it will take far longer for electricity supplies, and road and railway traffic to return to normal."

Although air, rail, and road traffic in many areas has slowly begun moving again, in other large regions the transport system is effectively paralysed.

Twelve national highways across six provinces remained impassable in some areas late Wednesday, causing huge traffic jams, Xinhua news agency said.

In the southern city of Guangzhou, about 800,000 people reportedly remained stranded amid continued chaos on road and rail networks leading north.

Officials were quoted by state media as saying the snarls in the southern city of Guangzhou, where millions of migrant workers from elsewhere in China live and work, would persist for at least another three to five days.

In a reflection of growing government alarm, Premier Wen Jiabao launched a public relations offensive that is somewhat rare for Chinese leaders, wading into crowds of marooned Guangzhou train passengers.

"This has been very hard on everyone," he admitted. "Currently every level of government is working on getting electricity restored, after that transport will resume."

But Zhang Yongfang, the 32-year-old manager of a Guangzhou computer shop, dismissed Wen's appearance as a publicity stunt and called for more troops to be mobilised.

"We have to be able to deal with this properly to demonstrate that we can also deal with big events like the Olympics this year," said Zhang, who wants to return to his home in adjacent Hunan province.

The government Wednesday ordered troops to join in relief efforts following mounting reports of water shortages and spiking food prices.

State television broadcast images of thousands of People's Liberation Army troops shovelling snow off highways and providing water to stricken residents of the affected region.

At least 30 million people have been affected by rolling power blackouts, with the weather strangling the distribution of coal, source of three-quarters of China's energy, the government has said.

Economic losses blamed on the adverse weather have soared to an estimated 4.5 billion dollars, according to state media, which said that nearly 150,000 homes had collapsed and anotehr 600,000 had been damaged.