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384 deaths reported in natural disasters in first half year
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Natural disasters -- mainly droughts, storms, hail, floods, earthquakes and landslides -- caused 384 deaths and left 24 missing in the first half of this year, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said Monday.

Thirty-five of the fatalities were caused by forest fires, the ministry said in a report.

The disasters affected 220 million people and about 1.21 million people were relocated by the government during the period, it said.

The disasters affected 35.02 million hectares of crops, left more than 199,000 homes destroyed and resulted in 39.14 billion yuan (5.73 billion U.S. dollars) of economic losses, the ministry said.

The figures were incomparable to the same period of last year when an 8-magnitude earthquake hit southwestern Sichuan and affected parts of Shaanxi and Gansu provinces on May 12.

The quake left more than 87,000 people dead or missing. Property loss was valued at more than 800 billion yuan, according to the latest official figures.

(Xinhua News Agency July 13, 2009)

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