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Thursday, June 24, 2010

More rains lash flood-hit south China: floods and landslides have killed over 200 people and forced millions to evacuate

More rains lash flood-hit south China

BEIJING — Heavy rains lashed south China Thursday as the government set up emergency response headquarters to combat floods and landslides that have killed over 200 people and forced millions to evacuate.

The scale of the disaster prompted Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to fly to hard-hit Jiangxi province to inspect rescue and relief operations -- his second visit to a flood-hit area in one week, state radio reported.

State television showed Wen walking in ankle deep waters in a downpour consoling locals and encouraging soldiers shipped in for rescue operations. Wen also visited an indoor stadium full of adults and children forced from their homes.

The state meteorological bureau warned that more rains were due to hit five provinces and regions in southern China in the coming days, as water levels on many rivers surpassed historic highs.

Up to 196 millimetres (eight inches) of rain fell on parts of Jiangxi and neighbouring Fujian province during a 24-hour period starting Tuesday, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said, warning of landslides and mudflows.

More than 15,000 soldiers have been dispatched to hard-hit areas to help in rescue operations, while militias aided in the evacuation of over 75,000 people in Jiangxi after a dyke burst on the Fuhe river, the ministry added.

An army of over 2.6 million people in the province were shoring up river and reservoir dykes in an effort to avert further disaster, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The disaster, which has hit 10 southern and central Chinese provinces or regions, has caused an estimated 43 billion yuan (six billion dollars) of economic losses and displaced 2.4 million people since June 13, 2010.

At least 211 people have died in the disaster and 119 are missing, the ministry said.

More than 1.6 million hectares (3.9 million acres) of farmland have been flooded -- an area larger than the Bahamas -- with 17% of crops on submerged lands completely destroyed, it added.

Aerial footage of Jiangxi's hard-hit Fuzhou city along the Fuhe river showed large swathes of residential areas completely submerged by water.

Video footage also showed soldiers patrolling in boats and evacuating people trapped on rooftops and trees surrounded by flood waters.

The civil affairs ministry Wednesday ordered the establishment of a rescue and relief centre to coordinate emergency response operations.

Medical teams have also been dispatched to flood-hit areas to monitor for outbreaks of disease, the health ministry said, adding that no epidemics had so far been detected.

Alternating floods and droughts have plagued China's people for millennia.

This month's floods are among the worst in south China since 1998, when over 3,600 people were killed and more than 20 million displaced, Xinhua said.

Large flood-hit areas of southern and southwestern China, particularly Guizhou, Guangxi and Chongqing, have only just recently emerged from a crippling drought that in some regions was the worst in a century.


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