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Thousands of Prisoners Rescued from Bilis Storm
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In the aftermath of tropical storm Bilis over 4,200 prisoners in Guangdong have been rescued from two prisons in Shaoguan City after floods left them stranded for two days.

Twenty prison wardens managed to get food and water to the inmates evacuated from one jail on Saturday afternoon when some 30 inmates began to show symptoms of gastroenteritis and skin diseases.

Two helicopters airdropped 2.1 tons of food, drinking water, medicine and other supplies on Sunday afternoon after their previous attempts failed due to the weather conditions. The police helicopters also evacuated 32 people from the flood-stricken area including 22 children, four pregnant women, six injured people and police officers.

The prison administration also rented boats to ship food from urban regions to the flood-stranded inmates. No lives were lost or injuries suffered during the two separate rescue operations.

Six more people in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region were confirmed dead on Tuesday bringing the death toll from the rainstorms and flooding triggered by Bilis across China to 204.

The death toll in Guangxi rose to 25 on Tuesday while nine others remained missing, according to local officials. In Guangxi 5.86 million people were affected and the economic losses stood at approximately  1.21 billion yuan (more than US$151 million). A total of 369,000 local residents have been relocated to safety after some 17,700 houses were damaged or destroyed in the disaster.

The local government has provided 5 million yuan (US$625,000) for disaster relief and some 30 officials have been dispatched to help the flood-hit regions.

Bilis bit China last Friday and triggered heavy rainfall and serious floods in Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangdong and Guangxi. More than 1.7 million residents have been evacuated over the past weekend, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Hunan Province is the worst-hit where 92 people were killed and more than 100 are missing. The storms claimed 43 lives in Fujian Province and 44 in Guangdong.

The floods were expected to affect Changsha, capital city of Hunan, on Tuesday night, forcing the evacuation of nearly 4,000 people. More than 2 million soldiers and local residents have been mobilized to fight against possible flooding along the bank of the major river sections in the city. About 380,000 cubic meters of rocks and large amounts of flood-control materials were made ready to hold back floodwater.

As the tropical storm subsided and moved westward to Guizhou and Yunnan provinces high temperatures were predicted for Hunan and Fujian in the coming week, according to local meteorological stations. The peak temperature is expected to be 40 degrees Celsius in Hunan and 39 in Fujian.

Traffic had resumed on the flooded trunk railway linking Beijing and Guangzhou by midday on Tuesday after the efforts of more than 5,000 workers to repair damage over the past three days, the Guangzhou Railway Group said.

By 6:18 p.m. railway workers had repaired all the damage but normal operations will only resume at a later date due to the remaining high water levels in some areas. Floods and rainstorms had disrupted part of the north-to-south artery and thousands of passengers were stranded along the route.

Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu on Tuesday urged officials to continue their work in flood control and disaster relief. The government regards the current flood control task as its top priority, Hui said during an inspection of the worst hit Hunan Province.

Hui, also head of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, led an inspection of Hunan on Tuesday, calling for continuous efforts in flood control, resettlement of affected people and the rebuilding of houses.

The vice premier said storm affected areas still faced great challenges and asked that governments at all levels take effective measures to prevent more disasters and ensure the safety of major rivers and reservoirs in flood season.

The Ministry of Finance approved 65 million yuan (US$8.125 million) to fund disaster relief work in Hunan, Guangdong, Fujian and Jiangxi provinces. The Ministry of Civil Affairs has successively activated grade 4 and grade 3 of the emergency response mechanism to provide relief to the disaster areas.

In line with the mechanism two vice-ministers of civil affairs, Li Liguo and Dou Yupei, have led joint work groups representing the Ministry of Civil Affairs, Ministry of Finance and several other departments to Hunan and Fujian to guide relief work.

Bilis claimed at least 14 lives in the Luzon region of the Philippines before hitting China, according to Philippine officials.

(Xinhua News Agency July 19, 2006)

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