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Chinese province braces for year's worst flood crest

Central China's Hubei province Monday braced for the largest flood crest of the year along the Yangtze River.
PTI | By Agence France-Presse, Beijing
PUBLISHED ON JUL 15, 2003 10:42 AM IST

Central China's Hubei province Monday braced for the largest flood crest of the year along the Yangtze River while the swollen Huai River washed away homes and destroyed lives.

As water levels along critical points on the Yangtze were expected to exceed warning lines in Hubei, home to 60 million people, flood control officials were preparing for the worst.

"We're paying special attention to the water level in reservoirs throughout the province," said a flood control official in the provincial capital of Wuhan.

"Seasonal torrential rains and landslides have caused some casualties," she said, but declined to give specific figures.

In Hubei's Zigui county, the death toll from a landslide along Qinggan river, a tributary of the Yangtze, was raised to five, with 19 people missing and feared dead.

Premier Wen Jiabao, who visited the flood-stricken areas over the weekend, urged local officials to stay alert.

"All the nation's large rivers have entered the main flood season," Wen was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying. "In some areas, flood disasters can happen at any time."

Officials Monday released the latest figures on deaths and destruction caused by flooding from the Huai River, which runs through Anhui, Jiangsu and Henan provinces in central and eastern China, and was experiencing the most severe flooding since 1991.

To date, 16 people have been killed and 47.5 million people have been affected in the three provinces in the river valley, home to 165 million people, Xinhua said. Estimated direct economic losses totalled 18 billion yuan (2.9 billion US dollars).

However, losses -- including deaths, area of land and number of people affected -- were much lower than in 1991, state flood control officials told Xinhua.

A flood crest on the river was moving east from central China's Anhui province, where a million people have been evacuated, towards Jiangsu province in the east.

An official at the flood prevention office in Anhui's provincial capital of Hefei said 1.8 million workers, officials and soldiers had been commandeered to patrol dykes, which were still in danger due to long submersion in high waters.

In Jiangsu, 300,000 people had been forced to move from their homes as they watched their livelihoods swept away by the surging river, according to the Red Cross.

"It's pretty serious," Niels Juel, Red Cross regional disaster manager, told AFP by telephone from Jiangsu.

"We've seen vast areas where all agricultural land has been washed away. Many aquafarms have also been destroyed."

Juel, who arrived i Jiangsu as Chinese Red Cross donated tents, food and medicine for the disaster victims, said he had visited a school where 600 evacuees were housed in makeshift conditions.

"We heard there are 14 schools like that, with more than 6,000 evacuated people," he said.

The water level at Jiangba hydrological station on Hongze Lake on the lower reaches of the Huai River in Jiangsu province reached a record level of 14.37 meters (47.42 feet) by 3 pm Monday, 0.87 meters higher than the warning level, Xinhua cited local flood control headquarters saying.

About 830,000 local residents are patrolling along embankments, it said.

Prevention of epidemics was a top concern among officials charged with caring for the hundreds of thousands of evacuees.

More than 9,000 medical workers had been dispatched to Anhui province alone to provide treatment and prevent contagious diseases from breaking out, the China Daily reported.

The Chinese government has allocated another 78 million yuan (9.4 million US dollars) in relief funds to flood-hit Anhui, Hubei and Jiangsu provinces, Xinhua quoted the ministry of finance announcing Monday.

The government has allocated a total of 229.9 million yuan to Anhui and other flood-hit areas for disaster relief so far this year.

In southwest China's Chongqing municipality, 12 people have been killed and three injured in two landslides, the China News Service (CNS) said.

In nearby Sichuan province, 51 people were still missing after tonnes of mud and rocks engulfed Badi, a mountain village, over the weekend.

However, 71 people who had been trapped by the mudslide had been rescued as of early Monday, Zhao Liyong, a civil affairs official, told AFP by telephone.

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