Weeks of floods in south China kill 379


WATER LEVELS are receding in southern China after weeks of floods that have claimed 379 lives, but emergency workers are still trying to repair water defences because some rivers and lakes remain dangerous.

In one case, workers yesterday finished repairing a breach in the Changkai dyke near Fuzhou, in Fujian province, that had forced the evacuation of 100,000 people, the Xinhua news agency reported.

Flooding along the Yangtze river and other major waterways is an annual event, but this year the rains have brought havoc to the southern provinces, including Zhejiang, Fujian, Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi and Jiangxi. Some parts of Guangdong are seeing the worst rainfall in 500 years.

Some 68.7 million people in 22 provincial-level regions have been affected, three million people have been evacuated, while 4.36 million hectares of farmland has suffered from the deluge, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.

The State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters said river levels were going down in Jiangxi and Hunan, but levels in the Ganjiang River and Poyang Lake were higher than normal and remained dangerous, while Hunan’s Dongting Lake was also still rising.

Persistent heavy rains this year have left 379 people dead, 141 missing and resulted in economic losses estimated at 82.4 billion yuan (€9.8 billion), the headquarters said.

Television footage showed people returning to their sludge-covered houses and going through their personal effects trying to salvage what they could.

Combating the effects of flooding has important political significance in China, where areas like civil defence and disaster relief are closely linked in the minds of the populace to the ruling Communist Party. Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei warned regional officials this week that their jobs were at stake if they failed to protect people from the effects of the deluge.

“We must fully bring into play our monitoring and alert system and immediately announce disaster forecasts and thoroughly implement contingency plans and measures to avert mass disaster,” Mr Chen said.

These are some of the worst floods seen in China since 1998, when more than 3,600 people were killed and more than 20 million displaced, according to Xinhua.