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Death Toll from Lightning Strikes Rises to 40
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The death toll of lightning strikes in east China's Jiangxi and Zhejiang Provinces has risen to 40 as local meteorological authorities announced more deaths on Tuesday.

The meteorological authorities in Jiangxi said 35 people, up from the previous report of 32, had been killed by lightning since Saturday night, including 12 people hit while working in the fields outside the city of Shangrao. Two others, a 56-year-old woman and her 14-year-old grandson, were also killed when the corrugated iron roof they used for shelter was struck.

Two urban residents of Nanchang City died from lightning strikes while huddling together underneath a tree and two other people from rural areas died after their house collapsed from torrential downpours.

In addition, lightning killed five people on Monday while they were building a tomb in Zhejiang.

Another 11 were killed and 12 are missing because of floods or collapsed houses as a result of rainstorms sweeping China's central, east, and southern regions over the weekend, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Rain began to lash northern and central areas of Jiangxi on Saturday night. At least 12 counties received more than 50 millimeters of rainfall and 38 counties registered more than 25 millimeters of rainfall on Monday.

In the worst hit area of Shangrao, 516,700 people are affected and 5,000 have been relocated. More than 16,000 hectares of crops are affected and 342 houses collapsed, incurring losses of 70 million yuan (US$9.1 million).

Local meteorological stations have warned that lightning storms and rain will not subside until Wednesday; On average, 50 people die each year in Jiangxi from lightning strikes.

Officials with the Jiangxi meteorological authorities said that most of the lightning strike victims were farmers who were not fully aware of the dangers, and blamed the lack of shelter in the countryside for the deaths.

Rainstorms have hit central China's Guizhou, Hunan and Hubei provinces and east Shanghai, Jiangxi and Zhejiang, affecting about 167,500 hectares of crops, destroying 19,200 hectares, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

More than 8,100 houses were destroyed and 34,000 damaged. About 73,000 people were evacuated from their homes.

The disasters have caused overall economic losses of more than 1.06 billion yuan (US$139 million).

(Xinhua News Agency June 27, 2007)

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