China: 55 dead, missing in natural disasters in April

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BEIJING, May 8, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network) -- A total of 55 people were either dead or missing in China's natural disasters in April this year, including 15 in 174 forest fires, the Ministry of Civil Affairs reported on Thursday.

Figures also showed 14.43 million people were affected by natural disasters, including gale, hailstones, droughts, low and freezing temperature, and snow storms, while 579,000 people were forced to leave their homes.

More than 18,500 houses collapsed and nearly 1.948 million hectares of farmland were affected.

Total direct losses amounted to 8.83 billion yuan (about 1.26 billion U.S. dollars), according to the ministry.

In April, droughts continued to plague northeast and northwest China as well as parts of southern Yunnan and Hainan provinces.

The country saw this year's first typhoon Neoguri landing in the southern Hainan Province on April 18. It was the earliest typhoon landed in the country since the founding of New China in 1949.