(Reuters) – Here are key facts about China’s central city of Wuhan, home to more than 11 million people, which has emerged as the epicenter of a new virus outbreak that has infected 440 people and killed nine, spurring comparisons to the SARS epidemic of 2003.The city is central China’s main industrial and commercial center and an important transport hub.
The city has seen huge growth in flight traffic over the last years. Airlines had 332,861 seats on offer from Wuhan Tianhe International airport this month, double the number available in Jan. 2010, according to Flightglobal aviation website.
Most flights are domestic, with 111 flights to Beijing each week, 93 to the southwestern city of Chengdu, 84 to the southern city of Guangzhou, and 83 to Haikou, it added.
With regard to international flights, more than 140 are due to head to the Thai capital Bangkok, a popular destination for Chinese tourists, this month. More than 60 flights a month depart for Japan.
Global links include 13 direct flights to San Francisco each month, 17 to Dubai and 14 to New York City. Wuhan also offers direct connections to European cities such as Istanbul, London, Moscow, Paris, and Rome.
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Wuhan is home to China’s largest inland port and the gateway to its giant Three Gorges hydroelectric dam, the world’s largest power project by installed capacity, on the Yangtze River.
The city sprawls over roughly 8,500 sq km (3,300 sq miles) of alluvial plain dotted with hills and lakes such as the large East Lake and Tangxun Lake.
As the Lunar New Year begins on Saturday, with millions of Chinese journeying homewards this week to celebrate with their families, the risk of spreading the virus has turned the spotlight on Wuhan’s role as a railway hub.
Its three railway stations run train services to key destinations such as Beijing and the southern city of Guangzhou, with high-speed connections among them.