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Rainstorms, Floods Leave 98 Dead in Central China
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Rainstorms and floods have killed 98 people in central China's Hubei and Anhui provinces since the flood season began in June, according to local governments.

Sixty-eight people have been killed and 25 others were missing in Hubei Province. Another 402,200 people have been evacuated from affected areas, said Liu Hui, deputy head of the disaster relief office under the provincial civil affairs department at a press conference on Sunday afternoon.

Hubei, which is also called "the province of thousands of lakes," has experienced six major rainstorms since June, which have triggered floods in more than 2,000 rivers, mountain torrents, and landslides, causing an economic loss of more than 3.8 billion yuan (US$500 million), said Liu.

The central and local governments had allocated more than 90.5 million yuan (about US$11.9 million) of relief funds to the affected areas and all the evacuated people have been well accommodated, said Liu. "The evacuated residents have been arranged to live in tents, government buildings, schools or at their relatives and local governments have sent medical teams to treat the injured," said Liu.

The official with the provincial flood control office warned local government to prepare for new floods as heavy rainstorms were expected to hit Hubei from Tuesday to Friday.

"Although the large rivers, like the Yangtze and the Hanjiang Rivers, remain calm so far, the water level of 2,000 rivers of smaller size have risen dramatically, posing a serious threat to the flood control in the counties where the dams are poorly maintained," said Guo Zhigao, deputy director of the provincial flood control office.

In addition, most of the reservoirs in Hubei have used out their capacities and some even reported leakage and overflow, according to Guo.

More than 90,000 people have been patrolling on the dams and around the reservoir and residents nearby have been asked to evacuate to safe places.

In neighboring Anhui Province, the provincial disaster relief authority announced Sunday that floods have killed 30 people and affected more than 15 million residents in 15 cities of the province.

Consistent rainfalls started to pour down Saturday in southwestern Anhui and the northern part of the Huaihe River, with precipitation in 30 townships exceeding 100 millimeters.

By 8:00 AM Sunday, 60,000 houses had collapsed, and 585,000 people have been forced to relocate. A total of 300,000 people are suffering from drinking water shortages. Total economic losses have reached 9.17 billion yuan (about US$120 million), the latest statistics from the provincial disaster relief show.

The provincial civil affairs department has allocated 5.3 million yuan (about US$0.7 million) for the disaster relief work. By Thursday, 44 million yuan (about US$6.3 million) allocated by the central government had been sent to the flood-battered areas.

Sources with the Huaihe Water Resources Committee said water level at Wangjiaba, a crucial hydrological station along Huaihe River, has been pushed up by fierce downpours in the upper reaches of the river to 28.21 meters by 10:00 AM Sunday.

When the last flood peak arrived, eight buffer zones along the Huaihe River were commandeered, including the Mengwa flood reserve near Fuyang in the eastern province of Anhui. The water discharge led to the evacuation of about 157,800 residents.

The committee said the third flood peak is likely to pass Wangjiaba late Monday, and they may have to discharge water from the station to Mengwa again if the water level reaches warning marks.

Nine flood reserve areas along the Huaihe River, with eight in Anhui, have been commandeered to combat the coming flood peak. The Luohewa flood reserve area in Huainan City of Anhui was put to use for the first time of the year at 4:00 PM Sunday.

On Friday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited troops and residents fighting the floods in Anhui. He promised that evacuees will get maximum compensation allowed by rules from the government.

By Friday, a total of 403 people had been killed as a result of flooding, 105 were missing and 3.17 million people had been relocated as the rains coupled with ferocious flood waters continue to batter central and southern China.

(Xinhua News Agency July 16, 2007)

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