China to battle storms following heat wave

Updated: 2010-07-09 06:41
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BEIJING - Local authorities in central and southwest China were put on alert Thursday to fight heavy storms and floods -- termed to be the worst in a decade in some regions -- just as days-long heat wave that had scorched large areas across the country ended.

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The National Meteorological Center Thursday evening raised the storm alert to "orange", one step below the highest rating on a four-color scale.

It said heavy rains had started to pound central Hubei and Anhui provinces since Thursday and heavy rainfall was predicted in at least ten provinces and region in central and southwest China in the next 24 hours.

In Hubei, one person was killed after floods hit three counties and a city in the province' s north, affecting 500,000 residents and submerging parts of the areas in one-meter deep water, provincial disaster relief authorities said.

More than 27,370 hectares of farmland were flooded, 242 houses collapsed and at least 10,157 residents were evacuated from flooded homes, the disaster relief office of Hubei Provincial Civil Affairs Bureau said.

In neighboring Anhui, the provincial government called an emergency meeting Thursday night to discuss plans to counter damage from what officials said might be the worst storm to hit parts of Anhui in a decade.

Zhai Wuquan, head of Anhui provincial weather forecast bureau, said the intensified heavy rainfall from July 8 to 11 might cause floods in cities and mudflows and landslides in mountainous areas.

Anhui officials said a part of the Yangtze River that flows through the province is brimming with water. The water level of the Wan River had gone about one meter above the warning line. Dikes that have been under great pressure might also burst amidst heavy rainfall.

This follows a heat wave last week that had scorched large parts of China, breaking heat records -- including a 50-year record in Beijing -- and pushing up air-conditioner sales and electricity consumption in cities.

Weather forecast authorities said soon after the rain brought relief from heat, storms are about to strike.

The alarm also sounded in southwest China's Guizhou province where a rain-triggered landslide a week ago had left 99 villagers dead or missing.

For six days beginning late Thursday, most parts of Guizhou will experience heavy rainfalls, including sporadic storms or thunder storms, said the provincial weather forecast bureau.

"The upcoming storms are very likely to trigger mud flows, landslides or other disasters because the rainfall is forecast to be strong and would last for days," the bureau said in a statement.

Government departments were urged to beef up prevention efforts and enhance the monitoring of disaster-prone areas such as reservoirs and low-lying areas.

Guizhou was struck by a string of natural disasters caused by extreme weather one after another this year.

In the latest tragedy, 99 people were buried when a rain-triggered landslide engulfed Dazhai village in Guanling County on June 28. Rescuers had discovered 42 bodies, but had given up searching for the remaining 57, saying no traces of life were detected at the wreckage site.

By Thursday, 485 people have died while 225 remain missing following floods and other storm-related disasters that hit 25 provinces in China this year, according to the latest government figures. The direct economic losses have amounted to 90.9 billion yuan.

Floods have killed 25 people and left another three missing in northwest China's Qinghai Province in the first week of July.

China's flood control authority, the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, on Thursday launched a level IV emergency response after the Qinghai devastation.

A serious flood hit the province's Golmud River basin due to recent rainstorms and melting snow. Wenquan Reservoir, a large reservoir filled by a tributary of the Golmud River, reported a dangerously high water level only about 3.02 meters from the dam's top at 10:00 a.m. Thursday, local authorities said.

But the water had stopped rising at a rapid rate and no other dangers were found except for some small leaks in the embankment, they said.