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Thousands evacuated as flood waters diverted in east China

At least 55,700 people were being evacuated in eastern China on Saturday as authorities rushed to cope with some of the worst flooding in more than a decade.

india Updated: Jul 14, 2003 10:38 IST

At least 55,700 people were being evacuated in eastern China on Saturday as authorities rushed to cope with some of the worst flooding in more than a decade.

On its noon newscast, China Central Television showed hundreds of volunteers _ some waist-deep in water _ feverishly piling sandbags to shore up embankments along Hongze Lake in the eastern province of Jiangsu.

Residents around the lake were being moved to safety as officials prepared to divert flood waters, said the head of the Xuyi County propaganda office who would only give his surname, Zhang. "By 6 p.m. Sunday, all the women, children and elderly will be evacuated," Zhang said. "Young people will be asked to help strengthen dikes."

On Wednesday, 68,000 people in another flood diversion area in Xuyi county were moved in the most serious flooding the lake has seen since 1991, the official Xinhua News Agency said. China suffers flooding every summer rainy season. More than 200 deaths have been reported in mudslides and flooding since the start of June in central and southern China.

About 569 deaths have been reported in 2003 in floods, Xinhua said, citing a report released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs.The report also cited economic losses of almost 40 billion yuan (US$4.8 billion).

Chinese authorities destroy dikes to lower inundated rivers and lakes in emergencies, flooding farmland and smaller towns in order to protect cities elsewhere. Millions of Chinese live on land reclaimed with dikes that hem in rivers and lakes. In the hard-hit province of Anhui, which borders Jiangsu, officials have said that 16 people have been killed in this season's floods and more than a million people have been stranded by rising waters.

On Saturday, an official from the Anhui Provincial Anti-flood Headquarters said water levels in the Huai River were still increasing in some parts "but there was no big, dangerous situation." He refused to give his name.

He said sunny weather was forecast over the weekend. CCTV also showed Premier Wen Jiabao visiting Anhui and talking with residents as the mud-brown waters of the Huai roared by in the background.

On Friday, authorities opened floodgates along the river to divert water into fields in hope of sparing cities. About 33,000 residents had been evacuated in preparation.

The Huai originates in the central Henan province and runs through Anhui, Jiangsu and Shandong before emptying into the Yellow Sea.

State media have said flooding along the river is the worst since 1991 and in some places water levels are at record highs.

First Published: Jul 14, 2003 10:38 IST