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More downpours to lash south China
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Heavy rains were forecast for most parts of already-drenched southern China over the next 10 days, and some areas could experience torrential rains, strong gales and thunderstorms, the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) said on Sunday.

Precipitation in most southwest provinces, including Guizhou, Sichuan and Yunan, would be 30 percent to 70 percent heavier than in the same period last year, the CMA said.

Downpours would further raise river levels, inundate many regions along the Pearl River and cause a major flood at the Xijiang River, the Office of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters warned.

According to the central observatory, rainfall in most of the southern provinces exceeded 100 mm in the past three weeks, with totals as high as 500 mm to 700 mm in parts of Guangdong, Guangxi and Anhui provinces.

The continuous rain wreaked havoc across the south, disrupting traffic, damaging crops and causing blackouts in some areas.

Floods had forced more than 1.27 million people to evacuate, with 55 dead and seven missing in nine provinces as of 9 p.m. Saturday.

Six people died and four were missing since Friday after rainstorms devastated part of southern Guangdong Province and triggered the biggest river flood in nearly half a century, officials said on Saturday.

From 7 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday, 103 monitoring sites across the province reported precipitation of more than 100 mm, with the heaviest -- 269 mm -- in Duanfen Town, Jiangmen City, the Guangdong Provincial Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters said.

The deaths included four in Shenzhen and two in Shaoguan. The missing included two in Heyuan and one each in Qingyuan and Shaoguan, it said.

From May 25 through Saturday, 18 people have died and 2.22 million people in 17 cities in Guangdong have been affected by the storms. The average rainfall of 415 mm was double the long-term level, according to statistics as of 8 a.m. Saturday from the headquarters.

Also, 3,684 houses collapsed and 156,700 hectares of crops were flooded. The loss in the province was 1.87 billion yuan (271 million U.S. dollars).

With frequent natural disasters, the central and local governments have become more skilled in handling emergencies such as floods. This has just been shown in the aftermath of the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan Province.

Although there have been some deaths in the outbreak of rainy weather, emergency measures taken by local governments have proved rather effective in reducing casualties.

On Friday, the Guangdong provincial flood control headquarters raised the flood emergency response level from Grade IV to III, highlighting the urgency of prevention efforts.

Some 100,000 residents in Lechang City, Guangdong, were evacuated after the city was flooded by the swollen Wujiang River, but no casualties were reported.

On the river's Lechang stretch, the flood crested at 91.12 m, 3.92 m higher than the alert level at midnight on Friday. The river's water level has begun to fall slowly.

At 7 a.m. Saturday, the Xijiang River in Guangdong also surpassed alert levels in many sections, according to the headquarters. A major flood was expected at the river if the rain continued, Huang Boqing, deputy director of the Guangdong Provincial Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, warned on Saturday.

There had been no casualties from the flooding of the Wujiang and Xijiang rivers, it said.

A total of 20 people died and 8 were missing since June 7 in the Pearl River area, mainly in Guangdong and Guangxi. About 7.61 million people in the area had been affected and 11,200 houses collapsed. Some 421,000 hectares of crops were affected, more than half of which were inundated, according to the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

Rainstorms were expected to hit Xijiang River, Liujiang River and Guijiang River, major tributaries of the Pearl River, between Sunday and Wednesday, according to the office.

Rains totals of more than 200 mm from 8 a.m. Friday to 8 a.m. Saturday also ravaged 12 counties in eastern Fujian Province, with a maximum of 451 mm falling in Yunxiao County. Nearly 10,000 people in the worst-affected areas were evacuated, but no casualties have been reported in Fujian.

In Yongzhou City, Hunan Province, some 180,000 people were displaced as of noon Saturday due to continuous heavy rainstorms from June 8 to 13, but no casualties have been reported.

Precipitation in two counties in 24 hours in Yongzhou set new records, and all its 11 counties were hit by the rain, whose length, coverage and amount were highly unusual, the Yongzhou flood control headquarters said.

About half of the county seats of Jianghua and Daoxian were inundated in water up to 5 m deep, it said.

In neighboring Jiangxi, the water level of 12 major rivers with a length of 918 km surpassed the warning level on Saturday and was still rising. The province opened the gates of four large and two mid-sized reservoirs to discharge flood water.

Some 84,000 residents were evacuated and 12,000 trapped by floodwaters were rescued, according to the provincial flood control headquarters.

One person was reported killed in a landslide in Jiangxi. A total of 3.22 million people in 56 counties were affected by the rainstorms and 2,994 houses had collapsed in the past week. The loss was 3.22 billion yuan.

Some 190,000 people, including 1,000 soldiers, have been mobilized to join the flood prevention and relief efforts, according to the Jiangxi provincial flood control headquarters.

Jiangxi Governor Wu Xinxiong ordered that rescuers "continue effective disaster prevention and relief efforts and keep losses at a minimum."

More rain was expected to hit Jiangxi on Monday and Tuesday.

Villagers waiting for rescue on the roof of a flooded house in Zhaoping County, Guangxi.

Residents grabbing fish in a flooded street in Guilin, Guangxi.

Locals evacuate foreign tourists in Yangshuo, Guangxi.

In Liuzhou City, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, more than 50,000 residents were displaced after rainstorms moved into the area Thursday.

Nearly 800,000 people in Liuzhou were affected by floods, and 93 primary and middle schools had to suspend classes.

Wuzhou City in Guangxi activated a flood emergency response plan at noon on Saturday to prepare for flood crests in rivers upstream. A flood crest on the Guijiang River is forecast to reach Wuzhou City late Saturday.

Meanwhile, water in the Xijiang River's section in Wuzhou is rising by 15 cm per hour. The water level was likely to reach 25 m on Sunday afternoon and if it surpassed 26 m, the district would be seriously threatened.

The piers of several major bridges in downtown Wuzhou were completely submerged in river floodwater on Saturday. More than 4,000 people are on stand-by for emergency rescue operations in the city.

In Tengxian County on the upper reaches of the Xijiang River, the local government asked 30,000 residents to move to higher places on Saturday afternoon for fear of flood.

The water level in Tengxian section was 26.66 meters, 6.94 meters than the warning level and it was still increasing 13 cm per hour.

The local government asked all the residents living under 28.5 meter water level to move to places up to 30 meters before 7 a.m. Sunday.

"The flood will submerge the first floor next morning. The government has put up posters. We're moving the goods to the rented house in eastern downtown," said Lu Benbiao, a grocery store owner.

The autonomous region's communications department said 68 highways in the region were cut off by the rain disasters, although 40 re-opened to traffic after emergency repairs on Saturday.

Vegetable prices soared amid tight supplies in some flooded regions. In the worst-hit Guangdong Province, vegetable prices jumped 30 percent to 70 percent on Saturday alone in the cities of Guangzhou, Shantou, Chaozhou and Shaoguan.

(Xinhua News Agency June 15, 2008)

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