Natural disasters kill 449 people in first half of 2011

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Natural disasters left 449 people dead and 100 missing in the country in the first six months this year, according to a government report published on Saturday.

Disasters inflicted a direct economic loss of 142 billion yuan (21.8 billion U.S. dollars) and forced 2.96 million people to evacuate from their homes where 274,000 buildings collapsed, said the evaluation report posted on the website of the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

From January to June, the Chinese mainland had frequent earthquakes, with seven measured at a 5.0-magnitude or higher, and three tropical storms hit the mainland in June, it said.

A total of 25.5 million hectares of crops were affected by disasters, such as drought, flooding and snow, and 1.93 million of them went unharvested, the report said.

Hubei and Hunan provinces in central China as well as Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan in the southwest, were regions where 60 percent of the deaths and missing-person incidents occurred.

In the first six months, the central government appropriated more than 20,000 tents and 390,000 articles of clothing and distributed 1.62 billion yuan (249 million U.S. dollars) in living subsidies among disaster-affected people, the report said.

Disaster relief agencies will strengthen the monitoring and researching of disasters during the flood season and promote reconstruction projects for displaced individuals, said Zhang Weixing, director of the ministry's disaster relief department.

The evaluation report was jointly made by the Ministries of Civil Affairs, Agriculture, Health, Agriculture, Railways, Transport as well as bureaus of earthquake, forest and China's Red Cross Society.