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Death toll rises as deluge continues
( 2003-07-11 06:45) (China Daily)

Floods along the Huaihe River Valley have killed 16 people and caused direct economic losses of 18.17 billion yuan (US$2.19 billion),a report released Thursday said.

More than 250 oil wells around Hongze Lake  are submerged in floodwater in east China's Jiangsu Province. [newsphoto.com.cn]
And with no sign of let-up in the torrential rain, tragedy struck in the southwest of the country with three workmen on the Sichuan-Tibet Highway confirmed dead and 13 missing following a mudslide.

The official disaster situation report issued by the Ministry of Civil Affairs said that the 47.518 million inhabitants, mainly in Anhui, Jiangsu and Henan provinces through which the Huaihe River runs, had been hit by floods. Some 2.312 million have been trapped by flood waters, while around 843,000 people have been evacuated to safe areas, said the report.

By late Wednesday, 97.7 million yuan (US$11.8 million) had been appropriated for flood relief, of which 78 million yuan (US$9 million) comes from the central government, said sources with the Anhui provincial government.

Of the 575,000 Anhui inhabitants evacuated, 348,700 have taken refuge with their relatives and friends, 118,600 are living under makeshift cover, 76,500 have found accommodation in public housing, while the rest are staying in specially-erected tents.

More efforts ought to be made to avert major threats posed by weakened embankments along the mainstream of the Huaihe River, which have been severely tested following weeks of flooding, said Qiu Ruitian, vice-director of the Office of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

Villagers paddle back to their flooded home to pick up their belongings on the outskirts of Bengbu in Anhui province, July 8, 2003. [Reuters]

In the past two days, water levels at all major hydraulic stations along the mainstream of the Huaihe River have remained above the danger mark.

Parts of the embankment of the Huaihe River in Huoqiu County of Anhui are now at serious risk from the river's surging waters. The Huaihong artificial canal in the middle reaches of the Huaihe River and the 163.5 kilometre waterway from Hongze Lake to the Yellow Sea at the lower reaches have all been put into operation to divert the rising waters.

The measures have greatly eased the flood pressure, but with no let-up in the heavy rainfall, the water level of the Huaihe River is continuing to rise.

In another development, Lishui River, a major branch of the Yangtze River, which runs through Central China's Hunan Province, has been hit by severe floods which began on Wednesday , according to the Office of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

Zhang Zhitong, vice-director of the Office of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters on Thursday urged vigilance regarding the Yangtze.

He stressed that all relevant agencies spare no effort in ensuring reservoir safety.

China has 86,000 reservoirs, of which 30,413 are currently threatened, some 36 per cent of the total.

In another development, eighteen road workers, including five Tibetans were buried alive on Wednesday evening by mud-rock flows caused by landslides on the Sichuan-Tibet Highway. The road is one of the highest roads in China and serves as a communication link between Tibet and other parts of the country.

Two of the 18 workers were rescued,but three bodies were found by emergency teams yesterday morning.

The rescue work to find the others was still continuing at the time of going press.

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