Death toll of tropical storm Bilis hits 482 in China

Report
from Xinhua
Published on 21 Jul 2006
CHANGSHA, Jul 21, 2006 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Natural disasters triggered by tropical storm Bilis has killed 482 people in China as the central Hunan Province reported a sudden rise of death toll Friday afternoon .

Provincial authorities said 346 people died in floods caused by Bilis in Hunan while 89 others remain missing.

The sharp increase from previously reported 92 deaths in Hunan raised the country's toll to 482, with 63 confirmed dead in Guangdong Province, 30 in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and 43 in Fujian Province.

Since Bilis landed in China last Friday, 33 counties and six cities across Hunan were hit by rainstorms, floods, landslides and mudflows, affecting 7.29 million people. The province evacuated 800,000 people from dangerous places.

In Zixing City only, which is under the administration of Chenzhou, 197 people were confirmed dead with 69 missing.

The breakdown of communication and traffic systems caused great difficulty for the civil affairs department to collect information on deaths and damage, Luo Xiwu, deputy secretary of the Zixing City Committee of the Communist Party of China, told Xinhua.

And the officials did not shift their work focus from rescue and relief to death toll headcount and damage investigation until rainstorms stopped and floods receded, Luo said, adding that such a death toll of floods was "unprecedented" in Zixing.

Zhan Xiao'an, director of Hunan provincial flood control headquarters, said that power supply, and communication and traffic systems in some flooded areas have not been resumed.

Local rural people's preference to live near rivers and mountains was partly to blame for such a mass death in the province, Zhan said.

The provincial government urged on Friday governments at all levels to overcome difficulties and try to gather and check information on deaths and damage.

Officials who try to hide death toll will be punished, provincial authorities said.

Hunan is a water-and-rainfall rich province with thousands of rivers and lakes creating a climate system of humid weather and long rain season per year.