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Floods kill 1,072 this year in China

Updated: 2010-08-04 21:26
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Floods kill 1,072 this year in China
Chinese premier Wen Jiabao (C) speaks to soldiers who are fighting the floods during his inspection of flood-affected areas in Yongji county, Jilin city of northeast China's Jilin province, August 3, 2010. [Photo/Xinhua]

BEIJING - Rain-triggered floods have left 1,072 people dead and 619 others missing this year in China, a senior flood control official said Wednesday.

The floods affected 140 million people in 28 provinces and regions and caused direct economic losses estimated at almost 210 billion yuan, said Shu Qingpeng, deputy director of the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters (SFDH).

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The flooding also destroyed more than 1.1 million homes and damaged 9.72 million hectares of farmland, Shu said during an online interview with the Chinese government web portal on Wednesday.

China's large rivers, including the Yangtze, the Yellow and the Songhua, were all swollen to danger levels after heavy rains, which had inundated more than 160 cities across the country, Shu said.

Eight small reservoirs had collapsed during the rainy weather, but no casualties were reported, and another 1,000 reservoirs were at risk. Water also overflowed from some small and medium-sized rivers, Shu said.

Local authorities had evacuated 10.42 million people from areas at risk of flooding this year, he said.

Shu said President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice Premier Hui Liangyu were concerned about the disasters, and the flood control and rescue work.

The premier was inspecting flood control operations in northeast China's Jilin Province on Tuesday and Wednesday. Vice Premier Hui stressed Tuesday more efforts should be made to step up late rice planting to guarantee a good harvest in the wake of floods.

Hui also asked for timely drainage of waters in flood-affected regions and ordered local authorities to restore damaged farmland and make sure late rice was planted on time.

Shu said the central government had allocated more than 2.1 billion yuan for flood control and rescue work.

The SFDH also supplied more than 2,000 boats, 20,000 life vests and other materials, such as gas-powered generators and illuminators, for rescue work.

Some regions along the upper reaches of the Yangtze and the Han River were still experiencing rain and water levels remained high at the Three Gorges Dam and the Danjiangkou Reservoir.

Weather forecasts show heavy rains are expected to pelt areas in the northeastern Jilin Province from Wednesday to Friday. The swelling Songhua River was at danger level, and the national flood control situation remained severe, said Shu.

The SFDH required close monitoring of the levels of the Songhua and its tributaries because high waters were expected to continue.

Floods have left at least 100 people dead or missing in the past two months in Jilin, with 1.6 million people affected as of August 2.

"China will not see a repeat of the massive flood-related losses of 1998," Shu said in response to a question from a member of the public.

That year, catastrophic floods across the country claimed more than 3,000 lives, and destroyed almost 5 million homes.

Shu said monsoon rains this year across regions along China's largest river, the Yangtze, were less than those of 1998.

He said almost 2.3 million people were vulnerable to floods as more than a thousand dikes and river embankments were breached that year.

Meanwhile, the country has consolidated embankments along tributaries and built facilities such as the Three Gorges Dam that could hold 22.15 billion cubic meters of water, Shu said.

Local governments had improved their emergency response systems and management. Their capabilities in flood control and rescue were stronger, Shu said.

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