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630,000 Evacuated from Flooded Area
Rising floodwaters have forced the evacuation of 630,000 people from the swollen Huaihe River Valley area in east China. More than 16,000 soldiers helped with the move, local flood control sources said on Friday.

The evacuation came after more than 20 sections of dykes were breached, affecting 1.1 million of the 1.6 million residents in the valley, and the water showed no signs of abating.

To prevent the swollen Huaihe River from overflowing and being breached, water has been diverted into nine flood water diversion areas in the past week to protect major cities and the key national railway line running through the province.

According to an official report by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, some 569 people have been killed during this year's floods and direct economic losses of 39.87 billion yuan (US$4.8 billion) have been caused.

As of July 10, over 9.5 million hectares of farmland had been affected, and some 1.5 million hectares had suffered total crop failure. The normal lives and employment of nearly 140 million people have been affected, with 51,000 people struck ill or injured and around 2.3 million people forced from their homes.

The ministry did not give losses from previous years, but according to reports, in 1998, more than 2,000 died in seasonal flooding.

As the rainfall along the Huaihe River Valley still continues, the flood situation in Hubei and Hunan provinces along the lower reaches of the Yangtze River is deteriorating fast, posing a great challenge to the country's emergency rescue capabilities, said the report.

Currently, the ministry has provided 35,000 tents and cooperated with the Ministry of Finance to allocate a total of 110.9 million yuan (US$13.36 million) in relief funds to the 11 flood-hit regions.

In another development, rescue teams had recovered six bodies as of Friday at the site where 19 road workers were buried on Wednesday by mud-rock flows in the Tibet Autonomous Region in southwest China.

Jail evacuation

Over 5,000 prisoners evacuated from a major flood diversion area, have been securely and safely moved.

The transfer went without a hitch and no escapes, an official from east China's Anhui Province said.

"All of the 5,079 prisoners are safe and their lives in the new place have been properly arranged," said a division chief surnamed Zhou with the provincial Bureau of Justice, which manages jail affairs.

The affected prisoners were inmates in Baihu Prison, located within the flood diversion area of Baihu Lake.

Water released from branches of both the Yangtze and Huaihe rivers pour into the lake to ease levels.

But continuous torrential rain raised water levels in Baihu Lake from 10.74 meters to 11.82 meters between Tuesday morning and Wednesday afternoon, taking it over the 11.73 meter alert level.

Emergency measures became necessary to divert some of the waters in order to safeguard the lives and property of residents in neighboring counties and cities.

On the orders of the provincial flood control and drought relief headquarters, holes were blown in dykes encircling Baihu Prison, said Zhou. Before these emergency measures could be taken, the convicts had to be moved.

This began Wednesday evening and was completed by Thursday morning.

(China Daily July 12, 2003)

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