China

Rainstorms kill 36 in southwest China, 13 missing

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BEIJING, June 20 (Reuters) - Parts of southwest China suffered more flooding and landslides on Wednesday as officials raised to 36 the death toll from heavy rainstorms that have plagued the region since the weekend.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs said 13 others were still missing, while some 292,000 residents had been evacuated as of Wednesday after 17,000 houses collapsed.

Worst hit were the municipality of Chongqing and the neighbouring provinces of Sichuan, Guizhou and Hubei, where some 8.7 million people had been affected, the ministry said in a statement on its Web site (www.mca.gov.cn).

"Flash mountain torrents triggered serious flooding, landslides and mudslides," the release said. "Rain is continuing in Hubei, Chongqing, Sichuan and Guizhou at present. The disaster is still growing."

Some 44,000 hectares of crops have been destroyed, causing 900 million yuan ($118 million) of agricultural economic losses, the ministry said.

In Sichuan's Dazhou, where at least 10 people died as a result of storms, 13 village schools were flooded, roads were blocked and telecommunication and power lines were downed, the local government said on its Web site (www.dazhou.gov.cn).

The massive Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River started discharging some of the backed-up flood water on Tuesday because of heavy rainstorms in upstream areas, the People's Daily said on Wednesday.

Last summer and this spring, Sichuan and Chongqing suffered serious drought, but experts warned in May that the Yangtze could flood badly this year for the first time since 1998 when flooding killed more than 3,000 people.

Heavy rains this week also hit the southern provinces and areas such as Fujian, Guangdong and Guangxi, where floods earlier this month had caused widespread damage and killed at least 76 people, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said. There have been no new reports of casualties in the region.

The flood season in south China, usually from May to September every year, can be deadly as torrential rains, typhoons and tropical storms hit densely populated areas. ($1=7.617 Yuan)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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