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Death Toll from Storm Bilis Rises to 530
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The death toll from tropical storm Bilis and the ensuing natural disasters has risen to 530 across China as seven more fatalities were confirmed in southern Guangdong Province Saturday evening.


Floods and landslides have claimed 106 lives in the province and 77 others are still missing, according to the provincial flood control headquarters.


More than 7.41 million residents of 674 townships in 68 counties have been affected by rainstorms, floods and landslides triggered by Bilis, with economic losses standing at 13.5 billion yuan (nearly US$1.7 billion) in the coastal province.


The Guangdong provincial financial bureau has provided 67 million yuan (nearly US$8.4 million) for disaster relief operation and the agricultural bureau has distributed 220,000 kilograms of rice seeds for disaster-ravaged areas.


A series of natural disasters triggered by Bilis has killed 35 people in the neighboring Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, leaving four others missing and forcing the evacuation of 499,000 residents, said the regional disaster relief office on Saturday.


Local authorities in the central province of Hunan raised the region's death toll from 92 to 346 on Friday, saying 89 others remained missing.


Floods and landslides also killed 43 in Fujian Province.


Bilis landed on China's southeastern coast on July 14 and then churned inland, triggering deadly floods and landslides.


The breakdown of communication and traffic systems has made it very hard for the local civil affairs department to collect information on the number of deaths and the amount of damage caused, local officials said.


The Ministry of Civil Affairs issued an announcement on Friday, warning local officials not to cover up death tolls from the disaster.


By Friday, 26.45 million people have been affected by the storm in Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Fujian, Zhejiang and Jiangxi, according to the ministry.


The central government has earmarked hundreds of millions of yuan for rescue and disaster relief in flood-ravaged areas.


(Xinhua News Agency July 23, 2006)

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