CHINA / Regional

River bank collapse floods 11 villages
Updated: 2006-06-09 08:37

The bank of a rain-swollen river collapsed in southern China, flooding 11 villages filled with sleeping people and causing an unknown number of deaths and injuries, the government's Xinhua News Agency reported.

Buildings are flooded in Nanping, southeast China's Fujian Province. A bank collapse along a rain-swollen river in Fujian yesterday flooded 11 villages where thousands of families were asleep, killing an undetermined number of people. [Shanghai Daily]

The river bank collapse Thursday in Fujian province comes amid what the government says is the worst summer flooding in parts of China in three decades. At least 55 people have been killed and 12 are missing in Fujian and two other provinces since late May from heavy rains that have caused floods and landslides and washed away part of a rail-link between Beijing and Hong Kong.

Changting county in Fujian received more than 9 centimeters (3 1/2 inches) of rain in two hours, causing the Bashili River to jump its banks and sweep through the 11 villages Thursday morning, Xinhua said, citing provincial flood control officials.

Some 3,500 families lived in the villages, parts of which were covered in as much as 2 meters (yards) of water, the report said.

"Most of the people were asleep, so there's no way to calculate the number of casualties and the loss of property," Xinhua said.

However, a man who answered the phone at the Changting county Public Security Bureau said that his colleagues were at the site and that there were no reports of deaths so far. He would only give his surname, Li.

People living within a few kilometers (miles) of the breech site in Balihe Village who were reached by telephone said they had also not heard of any deaths.

Rescue crews, including paramilitary police and fire brigades, helped evacuate more than 16,000 people from the area and were reinforcing the river bank with sand bags, Xinhua said.

Across southern China, at least 378,000 people have already been evacuated from the provinces of Fujian, Guangdong and Guizhou due to floods prompted by an unusually heavy seasonal monsoon, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.

Fujian has been the worst affected, with 28 deaths since late May and direct economic losses estimated at 2.19 billion yuan (US$274 million; euro214 million).

Guangdong and Guizhou provinces have reported 11 deaths each. Other provinces further inland and to the north have also reported scattered deaths and flood damage.

China suffers hundreds of deaths every year in floods set off during the June-to-August rainy season, although the season's first storm arrived unusually early this year.

Rivers overflow and water rushes down mountains stripped of trees by decades of farming and logging, often causing deadly landslides.

The rains played havoc on transportation, flooding streets and requiring thousands of police and military officers to evacuate residents by boat.

Heavy rains in the southern inland province of Jiangxi washed out about a 30-meter (100-foot) section of track on the Beijing-Kowloon rail line early Thursday, Xinhua said.

Southbound traffic resumed after about two hours, but repairs were continuing on the northbound track, it said.