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Natural disasters kill 2,300 Chinese in 2007
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Natural disasters in China affected about 400 million people and caused 2,325 deaths last year, according to the country's Ministry of Civil Affairs on Friday.


The number of deaths caused by lightning were up from 14 percent of the total in 2006 to 25 percent last year, statistics revealed.


A ministry spokesman said 60 percent of the deadly disasters were from flooding and mud-rock flows. Wind storms also caused serious losses. Most of the fatalities resulted from floods and lightning strikes, or from landslides or construction collapses.


More than 1.46 million houses collapsed and 730 million mu (about 48.67 million hectares) of farmland was affected. This included more than 86.2 million mu turning barren, the ministry said here.


Total direct losses amounted to 236.3 billion yuan (about 31.5 billion U.S. dollars), while nearly 15 million people were forced to leave their homes by natural disasters such as drought, floods, landslides, typhoon, cold weather and heavy snow.


Fierce rainstorms swept China last summer, triggering floods, landslides and mud-rock flows. Sichuan Province and Chongqing Municipality in the southwest recorded the heaviest rainfall on record while a year ago they were ravaged by all time high temperatures and severe droughts.


The ministries of civil affairs and finance allocated more than 5 billion yuan in special funds to 13 disaster-hit areas last year. This included more than 50,000 disaster aid tents.


The government had rebuilt more than 1.4 million houses, more than 90 percent of those affected, by the end of last month. This ensured most disaster-hit and homeless people would have accommodation before the traditional Spring Festival, or the Chinese Lunar New Year, that falls on Feb. 7.


Necessary measures had also been taken in areas where reconstruction work became impossible due to weather conditions, to help disaster victims get through the winter.


China went through many abnormal extreme weather conditions last year but the situation improved from that of 2006 when natural disasters killed 3,186 people, the highest death toll in eight years.


Meteorological officials blamed global warming for an increasing number of extreme weather. Observers believed environmental erosion, inadequate reservoirs repair and corruption had all plagued China's disaster relief.


(Xinhua News Agency January 11, 2008)

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