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Swollen river threatens major city in central China

Chinese authorities scrambled to shore up flood defences today as a swollen river threatened a major city after heavy rains across the nation's south and centre left more than 200 people dead.

world Updated: Jun 25, 2010 13:30 IST

Chinese authorities scrambled to shore up flood defences on Friday as a swollen river threatened a major city after heavy rains across the nation's south and centre left more than 200 people dead.

Rescue teams were patching up dykes along the Xiang river in Hunan province after the highest wall of water in a decade passed through Changsha city, where over six million live in the greater metropolitan area, state media said.

The wave rose 2.5 metres (over eight feet) above the river's danger levels, the official Xinhua news agency said.

"Water levels on the lower reaches of the Xiang river are rising and will not go down, and will surpass flood warning levels again," the flood headquarters of the civil affairs ministry warned as the first crest passed.

Although heavy downpours were not expected around Changsha on Friday, more than 180 millimetres (over seven inches) of rain fell in parts of Hunan on Wednesday and Thursday, ensuring that rivers would remain swollen, it said.

At least 211 people have died and 119 are missing since torrential rains triggered flooding and landslides in south and central China from June 13 to June 24, the ministry said.

In all, 365 people have been killed and 147 more went missing in floods across China so far this year, it said.

In hard-hit Jiangxi province, which neighbours Hunan to the east, over 100,000 people were evacuated from Fuzhou city after a dyke on the Fuhe river burst its banks this week, deluging surrounding residential areas.

Water levels on 26 rivers in Jiangxi remained above warning levels on Friday as workers scrambled to enforce dykes, the provincial government said.

Despite already swollen rivers, authorities were forced to release water from 10 major reservoirs in the province as levels were also surpassing danger marks, it added.

The scale of the disaster in Jiangxi prompted Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to fly into Fuzhou on Thursday to inspect rescue and relief operations -- his second visit to a flood-hit area in a week.