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Rainstorms Sweep China, 20 Dead, 5 Missing
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Torrential rains and lightning storms have left 15 people dead, scores of homes destroyed, and roads and power supplies cut in southwest China since Monday.

Rains lashed Chongqing Municipality and triggered landslides and mud-rock flows in 22 of its 40 counties and districts in the southern, central and western parts. Ten people were killed, five are missing and 128 are injured or ill.

A total of 2.72 million people were affected, including 113,100 evacuated from their homes.

Heavy rains destroyed more than 10,000 houses and ruined 118,060 hectares of crops.

In downtown areas, water submerged 22 streets and cut off traffic. By noon, 48 power lines were downed and more than 200 firefighters were fighting fires caused by lightning.

In worst-hit areas, rainfall reached about 200 millimeters by 5:00 PM on Tuesday and had caused losses of more than 863 million yuan (US$113.5 million).

As the rain continues, the Yangtze River is expected to swell by 7.43 meters in the Cuntan hydrological station by Wednesday and the Jialing River up by 9.7 meters at the Beibei hydrological station. Local authorities have been put on flood alert.

The municipality is still recovering from heavy rain at the beginning of this month that affected 180,000 people, destroying 3,150 hectares of crops and inflicting losses of 27 million yuan (US$3.55 million).

Rainstorms also wrought havoc in the adjacent Sichuan Province. Two villagers were killed in the Shehong County in east Sichuan in landslides, and three died in lightning strikes in the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in the southern part of the province.

In northwest Xinjiang Uygur and north Inner Mongolia autonomous regions, five people have died in heavy rain and lightning storms since Saturday.

Heavy rains hit Xinjiang from Saturday, battering a Mongolian tent at a scenic site in the Dongshan District of Urumqi, killing two and injuring eight others.

The Lanzhou-Urumqi railway linking Xinjiang and Gansu was cut off at the Erbao Township of Hami City, where the roadbed of the 312 state highway was damaged as well.

In Xinyuan County of the Kazak Autonomous Prefecture of Ili in northern Xinjiang, a mud-rock flow damaged five roads and 56 houses together with one tent, resulting in losses of more than 100,000 yuan (US$13,157).

Local government officials are evacuating residents to safe areas, but the exact number is still unknown.

Heavy rains and hail left a hundred tourists stranded in the Tianshan Valley on Tuesday afternoon. "The road bed has subsided by five meters," said Wu Juan, a tour guide with the Shanshui Tourism Agency. In Wu's group alone there are 77 tourists, including 33 from Beijing.

Police in Kuqa County were attempting to get to the site, Wu said.

In Inner Mongolia, three villagers were killed by lightning at about 4:30 PM on Monday in the Biliutai Township of the Bairin Left Banner in the eastern part of the autonomous region.

Farmers He Ming, 50, Wang Zhong, 51, and Zhang Guohua, 42, were struck by lightning while working in fields.

(Xinhua News Agency July 18, 2007)

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