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Rainstorms Kill 23 in Hunan

Severe storms have hit 30 counties in central China's Hunan Province over the past six days, killing at least 23 people and leaving 24 others missing as of 4:00 pm Thursday, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The provincial flood control headquarters reports that mountain torrents and landslides have destroyed homes and flooded farmland. In some areas, transportation and communication links have been cut.

The three cities of Huaihua, Yiyang and Xiangxi have suffered the most serious damage. The Hunan Provincial Civil Affairs Bureau reports that between 5:00 and 11:00 AM on Wednesday, 260 homes collapsed in Huaihua alone, resulting in three deaths. Six others are still missing.

Three main reservoirs in the province have opened their sluice gates to discharge floodwaters. Governments at various levels have launched disaster control operations to evacuate the residents from flood-prone areas and restore damaged transportation and communication links.

The provincial meteorological station said on Wednesday that storms were lingering in the province Thursday, mainly in the central and southern sectors.

Some 4.6 million people have been affected so far by the storms. Damage to homes and other properties has resulted in an estimated 2.4 billion yuan (US$293 million) in direct economic losses.

Rescue teams and relief materials from local governments have reached some of the stricken areas and 121,000 people have been relocated.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs has implemented a level-four disaster response. A working group made up of personnel from the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Ministry of Construction and the China Meteorological Administration has been sent to the disaster areas.

(Xinhua News Agency and China Daily June 25, 2004)

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