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Torrential rain kills eight; five missing
By Xin Dingding (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-07-18 09:37

Torrential rain kills eight; five missing
The river bank in the ancient city of Langzhong in southwest China's Sichuan province is seen almost inundated by floods Friday, July 17, 2009. [Xinhua] 

Torrential rains and floods in southwest China's Sichuan province have left at least eight people dead, five missing and thousands without homes.

More than 117,000 people were relocated after downpours destroyed more than 5,000 houses in 22 counties in Sichuan from Tuesday, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs in Beijing.

Rainstorms on Friday lashed a large strip of areas from southwest China to northeast China, bringing coolness as well as transportation havoc to big cities.

The China Meteorological Administration (CMA) issued the second-highest alert for storms that swept areas including Beijing, Tianjin, the western Sichuan Basin and Shandong peninsula.

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On a scale of four, the orange alert means precipitation volumes are expected to reach more than 50 mm in three hours, with traffic restrictions put into effect and advisories issued telling people to avoid any work outdoors.

In Beijing, the downpour was the longest and most extensive of its kind since the city entered the summer season in May, said Zhang Mingying, senior engineer of the Beijing Meteorological Station.

The downpour cooled down the week-long sauna weather in the Chinese capital, bringing the daily high temperature down to 25 C. But the station forecast the weather will clear up on Saturday with the daily high temperature rising to 33 C.

In Sichuan province, heavy rain lasted into the fourth day on Friday.

Mianyang is among the heaviest-hit cities in Sichuan.

The city government estimated the direct economic loss at 670 million yuan ($98 million), as more than 2,300 rooms collapsed and 56,7000 hectares of crops were damaged.

The lasting downpours have caused mudslides on highways in the province and between Sichuan and Tibet, blocking traffic.

The storm has also interrupted the operation on the Baoji-Chengdu railway, a trunk line used by trains from Beijing, Shanghai and Xi'an to Chengdu.

Three trains leaving or passing Chengdu have been canceled, and a large number of trains were delayed because of detours to avoid the damaged sections of the Baoji-Chengdu railway, said Chen Zhuo, a publicity official with Chengdu Railway Station.

Nearly 20,000 passengers were stranded at the Chengdu railway station on Thursday, Chengdu Evening News reported.

To ease the pressure, the railway station opened 27 windows for refunding tickets on Thursday night, and refunds were issued for at least 10,000 train tickets, Chen said.

"The railway station is much less crowded now," he said.

The rainstorm is expected to cease gradually on Saturday morning, meteorologists said.

"As no heavy rain is forecast for the weekend, there is nothing to worry about after the rainstorm. Major rivers in the country will remain in a stable condition," said an official with the National Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, who identified himself as Xu.

In a related move, Molave, the sixth tropical storm this year, is moving toward the coast with a landfall predicted between the center of China's Guangdong province and the south of Fujian province.

The storm will enter the north region of the South China Sea on Saturday and will unleash rainstorms in Fujian during the upcoming weekend.

The Fujian provincial Flood Control and Drought Relief Department forecast that the storm may possibly become a typhoon and urged residents in its path to move and fishing boats avoid the storm's route.

But parts of southern China will continue to suffer high temperatures 35 C and higher. Part of Chongqing Municipality and central Zhejiang province could hit 40 C, a CMA news release said.

Xinhua contributed to the story

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