CHINA / National

Floods kills 29 in southern China
Updated: 2006-06-04 09:36

Rainstorms have whipped through southern China claiming 29 lives, with floods and landslides destroying thousands of homes and forcing the evacuation of more than 100,000 people, Xinhua News Agency said.

Seven residents of Meizhou city in Guangdong province, just north of Hong Kong, were killed in landslides over the past three days. Earlier 22 fatalities were confirmed in neighboring Fujian.

There were fears worse was to come with another 10 days of heavy rains forecast to drench the provinces south of the Yangtze river, a vast area that is home to hundreds of millions of people, said the report.

"Maximum rainfall may reach more than 200 millimeters (eight inches) in a few areas," an unnamed Beijing weather official warned.

The non-stop rain, so far 20 percent worse compared with the same period last year, has forced the evacuation of more than 50,000 people in Guangdong, plus another 50,000 in Fujian, Xinhua said.

In Fujian, about 19,000 homes have been destroyed, while in Guangdong hundreds of buildings are reported to have collapsed, Xinhua said.

The entire town of Chayang in Guangdong was flooded after officials released water from two reservoirs that had been brimming with a month's worth of precipitation.

As a result, the streets of Chayang were submerged in four meters (13 feet) of water, forcing 5,000 people to be evacuated.

"It just poured and had lasted for about a month," said Li Zhonghong, a local county government official, explaining why the water from the reservoirs had to be released.

Overall, 59 people have died in floods so far this year in the south of China.

Since serious flooding of the Yangtze River in 1998, China has spent billions of dollars on flood mitigation.

Major rivers have been brought under greater control and early warning systems have been put in place, but flash floods and landslides caused by rains continue to cause major damage.

While part of China was being soaked, other parts were experiencing severe droughts, highlighting the nation's basic geographic dilemma -- the imbalance between a dripping wet south and a parched north.

A prolonged drought in the north Chinese provinces has left 9.5 million people short of sufficient drinking water, said E Jingping, head of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

The same dry spell has affected 12.1 million hectares (30 million acres) of farmland and resulted in water shortages for 8.7 million head of livestock.


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