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Try your initrd. man mkinitrd - you can specify the options. The readymade initrd does not work for me ever, and provides huge wads of modules that have nothing to do with your system.
I have only expletives to describe this process. As soon as you are happy with your initrd they will update the kernel again and screw you over. I ran with a slackware kernel which did not need an initrd, and that was fine.
I found the solution: after removing the "quiet" option from the "inintrd" line in grub.conf
I saw that the "Welcome to emergency mode" lines start after error messages related
to OS/2 disks (HPFS) and I remembered that before starting the "yum update" I didn't
comment the 3 lines in /etc/fstab which mount the 3 HPFS partitions. Since the new kernel
is without the HPFS support, attempts to mount HPFS partitions fail. After commenting
the above 3 lines, the system booted OK.
OK, I solved it now but how I'll remember in 2 years when I'll repeat this process to
comment HPFS-related lines first? :-)
And it's not going to improve with age... :-)