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South China devastated by rain and landslides
Published on: 2010-06-21
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HEAVY RAIN and deadly landslides have left 132 people dead and scores missing in southern China, authorities said yesterday, and over a million residents have been evacuated to safety. More storms are forecast and the death toll is expected to rise.

More than 10 million people in south China’s nine provinces have been affected by severe floods, the ministry of water resources said, with power cuts, collapsed reservoirs and damage to roads also taking their toll.

Flooding is an annual event in China along the banks of the Yangtze river, which divides north and south China, and the Pearl river delta, which forms the focus of China’s economic powerhouse in Guangdong province. But this year’s floods have been heavier than usual and follow an intense period of drought in the region in the south and eastern seaboard, which left millions without drinking water and destroyed more than 12 million acres of crops.

Most of the deaths were caused by rivers bursting their banks, or by landslides. In one landslide in Zhejiang, nine people were killed, as weeks of continuous rain had deadly consequences.

The intense rainstorms started in mid-June in the provinces, which include Fujian, Jiangxi and Hunan, and the state-run CCTV station broadcast footage of rescues by boat and helicopter as the People’s Liberation Army rescue teams arrived at the site.

There have been scenes of young people carrying the elderly out of their homes on their backs, and of whole streets transformed into waterways by the deluge.

The flooding is also expected to have serious economic consequences in terms of lost production, dead crops and destruction of infrastructure. Hundreds of flights have been cancelled, while the rain network has also been affected as rail lines are flooded.

The havoc has brought total economic losses in the nine provinces to 14.5 billion yuan (€1.7 billion), and affected 535,500 hectares of crops, further blighting food supply in the region. The conditions have also led to the collapse of 68,000 houses.

Flood control authorities urged local governments to boost anti-flood measures to keep losses to a minimum and dispatched experts to Guizhou, Zhejiang and Chongqing to see what could be done and help rescue efforts, Zhang Zhitong, vice director of the office of state flood control and drought relief headquarters, said. The meteorological bureau was forecasting more thunderstorms overnight and it was expecting rainfall of 100-180 millimetres in many areas, rising to over 200 millimetres in others.

“The scope and intensity of the rain have increased,” the office said on its website yesterday.

This is effectively three times the usual level of rain in the region.

Climate change has meant that each year the flooding gets worse, while the droughts are also worsening.

However, it is not just the south that is feeling the economic downside of the bad weather.
Heavy rains last week in Beijing caused the capital’s airport to close last Thursday, and tens of thousands of travellers were inconvenienced by the closure.

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