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Floods in Hunan Kill 96, US$9.6mln Granted

The death toll from heavy rain and mountain torrents in central-south China's Hunan Province rose to 96 as of Wednesday, and thirty-eight people are still missing, said sources with the provincial government.

Eight people were found killed in the new round of rain-triggered floods that hit the cities of Yiyang, Shaoyang from Sunday to Tuesday and five others were missing.

The first round of heavy rain caused torrential flooding in some parts of Hunan from May 31 to June 1, killing 88 people and leaving 33 others missing, official statistics show.

Electric power supply, traffic and telecommunications have completely shut down in the inundated regions. Rescue and disaster-relief efforts are underway to minimize the damages and fight future floods, local flood control departments said.

During the past week, floods and landslides have left more than 130 dead and affected 15 million across central and south China, and the damage is still being tallied.

* In Guizhou, floods over the past weeks have claimed the lives of 49, with direct economic loses of 340 million yuan (US$41 million), according to local officials.

* In Guangxi, at least one person was killed as heavy rains pounded 23 counties, forcing more than 14,000 locals to be evacuated. Parts of Guangxi's Nanning and Guilin were under 80 centimeters of water after 200 millimeters of rain fell on the region.

US$9.6 million granted

Areas devastated by this year's natural disasters are to receive about 80 million yuan (US$9.6 million) in emergency funding from the central government.

Called "funds budgeted for catastrophic calamities," the money will be used for emergency aid, rebuilding and recovery after disasters such as flooding and drought, sources with the Ministry of Finance confirmed yesterday.

According to the official website of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, part of the money has already been earmarked for south China provinces battered by this summer's first floods as well as the drought-stricken Yunnan Province.

Severe weather ahead

"Following a week of downpours throughout south China, waters swelled above the danger level in some local rivers," a source at the flood and drought relief headquarters said.

By yesterday, waters in the Zishui and Xiangjiang rivers in Hunan Province and the Beiliu River in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region had started receding.

Although the country's major water-swollen rivers were flowing normally, the flood and drought relief headquarters urged authorities to brace themselves for potential flash floods along big rivers like the Yangtze.

The river caused havoc in east China during the summer of 1998 following torrential rains.

In the next three days, there will be more downpours in Hubei, Hunan, Sichuan, Jiangsu and Anhui provinces, weathermen predicted.

Thundershowers are forecast for parts of north and northeast China with possible hailstorms.

A heavy hailstorm, the second in a week, hit Beijing on Tuesday night with hailstones as big as ping-pong balls pounding western and southern parts of the capital.

In northeast China, provincial governments are on alert for floods. Zhang Zuoji, governor of Heilongjiang Province, has told officials to be well prepared for floods forecast for the Songhuajiang River valley.

(China Daily/Xinhua News Agency June 9, 2005)

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