CHINA / Regional

4,200 prisoners rescued in S. China amid Bilis ravage
Updated: 2006-07-19 17:39

Six more people in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region were confirmed dead on Tuesday, bringing the death toll from the rainstorms and flooding triggered by the tropical storm Bilis across China to 204.

The death toll in Guangxi rose to 25 on Tuesday while nine others remained missing, according to local officials.

In Guangdong, over 4,200 inmates have been rescued from two prisons in Shaoguan City after floods left them stranded for about two days.

Twenty wardens managed to bring food and water to the inmates evacuated from one jail on Saturday afternoon when some 30 inmates began to show symptoms of gastroenteritis and skin diseases.

Two helicopters airdropped 2.1 tons of food, drinking water, medicine and other supplies on Sunday afternoon after their previous attempts failed due to bad weather conditions.

The two police helicopters used for the mission also flew 32 people from the flood-stricken area to safety, including 22 children, four pregnant women, six injured people and police officers.

The prison administration also rented boats to ship food from urban regions to the flood-stranded inmates.

No imprisoned people were killed or suffered injuries during the two separate operations.

In Guangxi 5.86 million people were affected and the economic losses stood at about 1.21 billion yuan (more than US$151 million).

A total of 369,000 local residents have been relocated to safety after some 17,700 houses were damaged in the disaster.

The local government has provided 5 million yuan (US$625,000) for disaster relief and some 30 officials have been dispatched to help flood-hit regions survive the calamity.

Tropical storm Bilis landed in China last Friday and triggered heavy rainfall and serious floods in Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangdong and Guangxi. More than 1.7 million residents had been evacuated over the past weekend, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Hunan Province is the worst-hit province where 92 people have been confirmed dead and more than 100 are missing. Floods and rainstorms also claimed 43 lives in Fujian Province and 44 in Guangdong.

The floods are expected to affect Changsha, capital city of Hunan, on Tuesday night, forcing the evacuation of nearly 4,000 people. More than 2 million soldiers and local residents have been mobilized to fight against the possible flooding along the bank of the major river sections in the city. About 380,000 cubic meters of rocks and large amount of flood-control materials were prepared to curb the floodwater.

As the tropical storm is dying down and moving westward to Guizhou and Yunnan provinces, high temperatures are estimated to arrive in Hunan and Fujian in the coming week, according to local meteorological stations.

The peak temperature is expected to be 40 degrees Celsius in Hunan and 39 degrees Celsius in Fujian.

Traffic had resumed on the flood-ravaged trunk railway linking Beijing and Guangzhou by midday on Tuesday after the efforts of more than 5,000 workers to fix damage over the past three days, the Guangzhou Railway Group said.

By 6:18 p.m., railway workers had repaired all damaged sections along the railway, but normal operation will resume at a later date due to the high water level along some sections.

Floods and rainstorms had disrupted part of the north-to-south artery and thousands of passengers were stranded along the route.

Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu on Tuesday urged officials to continue their efforts in flood control and disaster relief.

The government regards the current flood control task as its top priority, Hui said during an inspection tour of Hunan Province, the worst-hit province.

Hui, also head of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, led an inspection tour in Hunan on Tuesday, calling for continuous efforts in flood control, resettlement of affected people and rebuilding of destroyed houses.

The vice premier said storm-ravaged areas still face great challenges, asking governments at all levels to take effective measures to prevent more possible disasters and ensure the safety of major rivers and reservoirs in flood season.

The Ministry of Finance approved 65 million yuan (US$8.125 million) to fund disaster relief efforts in Hunan, Guangdong, Fujian and Jiangxi provinces.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs has successively activated grade-4 and grade-3 of an emergency response mechanism to provide relief to the disaster zones.

In line with the mechanism, two vice-ministers of civil affairs, Li Liguo and Dou Yupei, have led joint work groups representing the Ministry of Civil Affairs, Ministry of Finance and several other departments to Hunan and Fujian to guide relief efforts.

Bilis claimed at least 14 lives in the Luzon region of the Philippines before landing in China, according to Philippine disaster officials.