YIWU COUNTY, Xinjinag, July 31 (Xinhua) -- A small county in west China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region was overwhelmed on Thursday, as thousands of people from around the world swarmed in for the best view of Friday's total eclipse of the sun.
Nearly 30,000 tourists, including more than 2,500 foreigners mainly from Europe, Japan, Australia and America have arrived in Yiwu County. The number of visitors was about the size of Wuyi's population, said a tourist official in Hami Prefecture.
The county, with its geographical coordinates at 44.34 degrees north and 93.26 degree east was believed by astronomers to give the best view of the phenomenon which will last from 6:09 p.m. to 8:05 p.m., although the total eclipse will be only two minutes.
The China National Astronomical Observatories under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) confirmed on Wednesday that Hami in Xinjiang and Jiuquan in neighboring Gansu Province would be the best places in China to observe the eclipse.
However, the small pastoral county of Yiwu, 500 kilometers east of Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital, lacks hotels. A three-star tourist hotel is the best boarding place in the county.
"Yiwu began preparing for the tourist upsurge from a year ago, when some foreigners began to make hotel reservations for the eclipse, but the number of tourists still went beyond our expectations," said Zhou Jun, the tourist bureau chief in Hami.
He said the county had opened an observation square covering 10,000 square meters and a camping area.
All boarding houses in Yiwu were booked out and the county government has been helping visitors book school dormitories, as schools were on summer vacation, said Cao Zhilin, a tourist official in Yiwu.
"Yiwu can provide accommodation for a maximum of 3,000 tourists, and the county government will try to limit the total number of visitors to under 10,000 on Friday," Cao said.
He said hundreds of tourists would stay in camps provided by the county government and others would be advised to go to Hami City and other neighboring towns, after the eclipse.
Tourism in the county is still developing as it promotes its attractions of the pastoral life and a desert oasis.
Professor Paul Doherty, a senior physicist from the San Francisco State University, said he took a 14-hour ride from Urumqi to Yiwu on Thursday.
He had observed seven total solar eclipses around the world.
"It is my first trip to China. The journey to Yiwu along the old Silk Road was exciting," said Doherty, who was camping near the observation square.
He was optimistic that the weather would be favorable on Friday.
The CAS will broadcast the total solar eclipse live on the Internet, and China Central Television and Xinjiang TV will broadcast it live.
Friday's spectacle will be the first solar eclipse to be viewed in China in this century. Canada, the Arctic Ocean and central Russia would also be covered by the eclipse.
Astronomers observed that China was entering a high incidence period for solar eclipses with the next due in January next year.