Natural disasters across China killed 3,186 people in 2006 and that's the highest death toll in eight years, said a senior civil affairs official on Thursday.
Natural disasters caused direct losses of 252.8 billion yuan (US$34.6 billion) in 2006, also the highest figure in eight years, said Li Liguo, Vice Minister of Civil Affairs.
He said the government spent 11.19 billion yuan on disaster relief in 2006 and all sectors of society donated 3.58 billion yuan as well as 469 million yuan worth of disaster relief materials in 2006.
Li said the death toll in 2006 was 24.6 percent up from the average in the 1999-2005 period and up by 28.7 percent from 2005. "There are direct and indirect reasons for the marked increase of the death toll. The direct reason was the devastating typhoons," said Li.
Two out of the six typhoons last year killed many people. On July 14, the year's fourth typhoon named Bilis, swept six provinces and killed 843 people. On August 10, the eighth typhoon, called Saomai, hit two provinces and killed 483 people.
The two devastating typhoons alone killed 1,326 people. This accounted for 41.6 percent of the total natural disaster death toll in 2006, said Li.
The indirect reason for the increased death toll was inadequate disaster relief capabilities, he said.
"Many houses are built in places which are prone to mud-rock flows. A lot of houses are made of mud and cannot resist extended flooding. In 2006 many people died when their homes collapsed and in mud-rock flows," said Li.
He vowed to further enhance the country's disaster relief capabilities this year.
(Xinhua News Agency January 11. 2007)