Wangmo, Guizhou - Among the hardships flood victims in Wangmo county in Guizhou province must endure, rebuilding their homes is perhaps not the worst.
A soldier with the People's Armed Police helps a girl across a muddy field on Wednesday in Wangmo, Guizhou province, after floods ravaged the county on Sunday and Monday. Liu Xu / Xinhua
Local officials have begun to fear that underground anthrax might have contaminated the county's source of drinking water, possibly making it unsafe.
Zhang Fan, Party secretary of the severely hit Dajian township, told China Daily on Thursday that the residents are desperate for drinking water.
"Since the water-supply has been ruined by the flood and anthrax was found in this township once before, we are being very cautious in our search for water sources," he said.
The only road leading to the town was destroyed in the flood and is still closed to heavy trucks, preventing water-prospecting teams from coming, he said.
"Residents are relying on bottled water shipped in from the outside," Zhang said. "We only have enough water stored for two days."
Fortunately, he said, residents seem to have found a safe source of water 5 kilometers away.
Dajian contains seven villages and is home to more than 10,000 people. Township officials have said the recent flooding, which was brought on by torrential rain, has caused 7 deaths in the township and that the whereabouts of 18 other residents are still unknown. The deaths all occurred in a village also named Dajian.
Huang Fujiang, Party secretary of the village, said the loss of drinking water is not the only hardship to befall residents. The flooding has also led to power losses and caused local roads to buckle.
"We really need some candles and pocket lamps here," he said.
The only road leading to the village was reopened at noon on Thursday. A day earlier, a communication tower was put back into operation after undergoing repairs for three days, said Wei Guanghui, a 34-year-old villager.
Vehicles and power generators arrived in the village on Thursday.
Local residents worked hard at draining the floodwaters during the past three days. Still, Huang's village remains covered with the mud and debris left by the disaster. Those walking the street have to contend with a noxious stench.
Huang said the flood swept away 32 houses that had belonged to 30 families in the village.
Wang Jianxin, a 41-year-old resident, lost his house, which was built beside the river.
"The flood also ruined my grocery store and farmland and took everything from me," he said. "What can I tell my daughters about their college tuition?"
Wang Bushang, a 34-year-old village resident, lost his new house, which cost him his entire savings to acquire. Fortunately for him, his family still has its old place, which remained standing even as the flood swept away all of his other belongings.
He said the disaster was like a "nightmare".
"An old man in his 80s told us he's been in this village for his whole life and that he's never seen a flood as bad as this one," he said.
Wang said many of his neighbors who died in the flood were trying to save their belongings when the disaster struck and did not expect the floodwaters to rise as quickly as they did.
"It happened in just a few seconds," he said.
Wang Bushang's 17-year-old son, Wang Xiaoshang, said the village's school was also damaged. He said his teacher has told students not to return until September, when the next term starts.
Wang and his family are now living in a tent, meters away from their old home.
By Thursday, local governments had delivered 17 tons of rice, 130 quilts and blankets and 50 tents to the flood victims.
"Residents from other villages nearby donated fresh vegetables and basic necessities," said Huang, who is in charge of distributing the relief goods. He said village residents are not in danger of going hungry but they lack a good supply of oil and salt.
"The flood didn't take my house, but I lost everything in it," said Huangma Meili, a 55-year-old resident. "I can never start my life over again."
By 4 pm on Thursday, local authorities had confirmed that police officials and militiamen, three in all, were among the dead, said Li Zechun, an official with the local publicity department. He said about 7 million yuan ($1.08 million) in donations have come to the village from within Guizhou province and more is still expected.