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Flooding Toll: 300 Dead or Missing
At least 26 people have died and 282 were still missing Tuesday as a result of flooding in southern parts of Shaanxi Province in Northwest China.

In Shanning County, the flooding has claimed 24 lives since last weekend, with another 174 people still missing.

More than 1,500 houses in the county had been destroyed by Tuesday night, according to Xinhua News Agency.

The figure was expected to increase further as two-fifths of towns in the county have been suffering from blocked transport and telecommunications, said the report.

In another development, Fuoping County - near Shaanxi's capital city Xi'an - has reported two deaths and 108 missing. More than 1,400 houses had collapsed by Monday night, according to the local anti-flood office.

More than 500 hectares of farmland were devastated by the torrents, and local transport and electricity were blocked, the office said Tuesday.

Rescue troops in Fuoping County were sending food and water over the mountains to a spot where a number of tourists were trapped.

Jia Zhibang, acting governor of the province, Tuesday arrived at Fuoping County to oversee the rescue effort.

The provincial government has set up an emergency rescue office in Xi'an to deal with the flooding around the province.

Meanwhile, sources with the province's transportation administration said that most main roads in the south of the province had been blocked due to landslides caused by flooding.

Local rescue workers were Tuesday working to pave the way for further help by repairing State highways No 108 and No 210, which pass through the province.

Railway workers in Xi'an were also busy ensuring that trains bypassed the city to relieve the traffic pressure on the Lanzhou-Lianyungang railway, which goes through the province, according to the report.

The People's Liberation Army last month set up 19 emergency military forces to fight flooding.

Army sources said that the forces were formed mainly from bridge-construction and engineering units.

An unnamed source at the army's General Staff Headquarters said: "They are responsible for flood relief and saving people if disasters happen in China's seven major rivers."

The special forces are being deployed along the Yangtze River, Yellow River and other major rivers. They have been trained and provided with professional equipment to fight floods, the source said.

Their responsibility includes disaster inquiries, dam protection, and helping save and assist flood-hit people and their property.

In 1998 when floods hit and destroyed parts of China, about 300,000 PLA soldiers took part in disaster relief but some did not have the proper professional skills and equipment.

The troops are currently training hard for flood relief, the source said.

(China Daily June 12, 2002)

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