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1 in 10 Affected by Floods
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Floods have affected at least one in 10 residents and killed 1,138 in the country this year, but better prevention and relief have helped reduce loss of life and property, a senior official said Tuesday.

The country still faces an uphill battle against floods and droughts in the months to come, partly because of extreme weather and damaged infrastructure, Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei told a news briefing in Beijing.

Rainfall has been abnormal this year, with floods and droughts affecting large swathes of the country, Chen said.

He said flood defense facilities, timely evacuation of people and early warnings have cut the death toll this year by nearly half compared with the same period of an average year.

In June and July, the Huaihe River, the country's third longest, suffered the worst flooding since 1954.

But losses were significantly lower thanks to floodwater diversion and a new batch of river-harnessing projects, which started in 2003 and will be completed this year at a cost of 44.6 billion yuan (US$5.9 billion), Chen told the press conference organized by the State Council Information Office.

Across the country, floods wrecked 883,000 houses and impacted 139 million people with 1,348 dead or missing by Monday, according to latest ministry figures.

"Late August is still a critical period for flood control and drought relief," Chen said. "We are still faced with a severe situation."

The next two months are likely to see more typhoons and more rainfall in the tributaries of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, the longest and second longest in the country, he said.

Extreme weather, such as storms, will inevitably cause flash floods, landslides and mudslides, he said, adding that some water-control facilities damaged in this year's floods have to be repaired.

In particular, 37,000 of the 85,000 reservoirs face "perils", Chen warned.

"These reservoirs have played a remarkable role in flood control, water supply and irrigation, but the bulk of them were built between the 1950s and 1970s, and have inherent design defects or are poorly maintained," he said. "The danger is clear."

The central and local governments plan to budget 51 billion yuan (US$6.7 billion) to reinforce or eliminate the dangers to 6,200 large and important reservoirs in three years, he said.

(China Daily August 29, 2007)

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