CHINA> Regional
Situation 'critical' in Sichuan as flood approaching
By Zhang Haizhou and Xie Chuanjiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-07-03 08:18

Areas affected by the May 12 earthquake are facing a "critical situation", as the annual flood approaches, a senior official from the Ministry of Water Resources said on Wednesday in Beijing.

Jiao Yong, deputy water minister, said at a press briefing that some parts of China have experienced up to 50 percent more rain this year than usual.

Sichuan is also due to get a lot wetter during its flood season, which is expected to run through this month and next, he said.

The problem is that the earthquake did considerable damage to the province's reservoirs and dams, which will reduce its ability to prevent floods, he said.

"Repairing reservoirs is our priority. Most of them will operate with low water levels, or even be emptied during the flood season," Jiao said.

Emergency plans for all 1,803 water reservoirs damaged by the quake have already been drawn up, he said, adding that the ministry will closely monitor the weather situation.

Also, 37 specialist teams comprising 3,280 experts and technicians from across the country have been working to inspect damaged reservoirs and dams.

As well as the damaged reservoirs, quake lakes remain a possible threat to the people of Sichuan, Jiao said.

Thirty-four quake lakes were formed after the earthquake, of which 32 are no longer dangerous and the other are two are classed as "low danger", he said.

"However, the lakes we have said are no longer a threat have yet to go through the experience of flooding. Heavy rains and aftershocks could induce rockslides that lead to more quake lakes," he said.

Also yesterday, Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang said the country faces an arduous task to find jobs for the more than 1.1 million farmers who lost their land to the Sichuan earthquake.

He was speaking at a conference in Beijing for the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Despite the huge financial cost of the Sichuan quake, it has not jeopardized the basis of the Chinese economy, "which is heading in the direction of our macroeconomic goals", he said.

However, the country is facing its toughest challenge in recent years, he said, adding that China's steady growth and developing economy has given it greater strength to manage the situation.

"We have had to be well prepared, considering all the uncertainty we have faced this year," he said.

Also at yesterday's conference, Zhang said that a number of medium- and small-sized privately owned firms had gone bankrupt in recent years, which had created an unstable employment situation.

The problem of China's labor force not matching the needs of the market is one of the key challenges facing the government, he said.

This year, the country will create 12 million new jobs, but more than 24 million people are in need of them, he said.

As a result, some 30 percent of the country's 6 million university graduates may not get a job this year, he said.

"Accelerating the growth of the private sector will be one of the principal ways in which we will tackle our employment challenges," Zhang said.