The Heat Is Online

Epic Flooding Inundates 9,000 square miles in southern China

China rushes to fix dams, 9,000 square miles flooded

 

Reuters News Service, Jun 18, 2008 

 

FENGKOU, China (Reuters) - China has posted hundreds of police and rescue officials to shore up dams threatening to burst under torrential rain that has already flooded 9,000 square miles of crops and homes.

 

The rain and floods, concentrated in the southern industrial hub of Guangdong, have killed at least 171 people and left 52 missing since the start of the annual flood season and forecasters have warned of more downpours in coming days.

 

More than 750 government officials and police had been sent to conduct rescue work for six reservoirs in "danger of bursting" in southern Guangxi region, Xinhua news agency said.

 

Some 3,000 people had already been evacuated downstream from a reservoir with a capacity of 1.8 million cubic meters, the agency said.

 

More than 1.66 million people have been evacuated across nine provinces and regions in southern China since major flooding started 11 days ago.

 

Families were perched on the roofs of homes flooded up to the first-floor ceiling, enduring the latest in a series of disasters in Beijing's Olympic year after record snowstorms in January and February and the devastating May 12 earthquake.

 

Rain-triggered floods have toppled 134,000 houses, damaged or destroyed 2.32 million hectares (9,000 square miles) of crops and caused economic losses of 27.7 billion yuan ($4 billion).

 

China's meteorological bureau forecast storms in western Guangdong and southern Guangxi and warned authorities to halt outdoor work and guard against damaged electric cables.

 

"Be on guard for disasters including mountain flooding, landslides and mudslides," the National Meteorological Bureau said on its website.

Water levels in the swollen Xijiang and Beijiang rivers in Guangdong were subsiding slowly, but rain forecast over the next three days would provide renewed risk of flooding, Xinhua said.

 

Heavy rains forecast for neighboring Fujian province could also "cause geological disasters".

 

Provincial water authorities earlier reported the Pearl River Delta, a major exporting base, had suffered its greatest flooding in 50 years.

Residents of Hekou, a village on the outskirts of Pearl River Delta town Sanshui, waded chest-high through streets turned into coffee-coloured canals.

 

"We carried everything upstairs -- a cabinet, the TV, the refrigerator, the motorcycle," said Wu, who sells fish from the river for a living. "There's nothing else you can do."

 

China suffers floods, droughts and other disasters across its huge landmass every year. Economists have said the cost of this year's flooding appears no greater than in previous years.

 

"The Sichuan earthquake was a natural disaster," said a resigned Zhang Shang, 59, as he rowed his family across the flood waters in Fengkou, a town of about 80,000 in Guangdong near the border with Guangxi. "This is not."

 

But analysts have warned sustained rains could reduce sugar production in Guangxi, which accounts for 60 percent of the country's crop.

 

Rain has also been forecast for quake-hit areas of Sichuan, where officials have warned of renewed threats of epidemics as summer temperatures rise.

 

The 7.9 magnitude quake killed more than 69,000 people and left about five million homeless.

 

($1=6.891 yuan)

 

© Thomson Reuters 2008. All rights reserved

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