China

Relentless rainstorms continue to slam South China

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Torrential rains that have killed 76 people will continue to deluge south China, especially Guangdong Province, for the rest of this week, local meteorological departments forecast.

"Heavy downpours in most parts of the province will not stop until Saturday," said Huang Zhong, a weatherman with Guangdong Meteorological Station.

According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, 76 people have died, 13 are missing and more than 13.56 million people have been affected by the storm system, which has caused an estimated 4.73 billion yuan (US$606 million) in overall economic losses.

"Continuous torrential rains, mud slides, and floods in southern China have affected about 479,600 hectares of crops, completely destroying nearly one third of them," said an official with the ministry.

The number of houses destroyed by floods has risen to 69,000, with another 144,000 houses damaged in southern China. Some 788,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes, the official said.

In Guangdong Province, which felt the brunt of the storm, governments are handing out emergency funds and living necessities to the ravaged areas.

As of Monday, the civil affairs department in the province had allocated 13 million yuan in relief funds, 285 tents, 280 tons of grains, as well as drinking water and food in disaster areas.

More than 10,000 people have been evacuated from six villages that have been flooded to divert water from the swelling Hanjiang River in southern Guangdong Province.

No casualties had been reported in the villages of Liuhuang Town, said Guo Chunshan, the town's Party chief.

"All the evacuated residents have been appropriately resettled, " said Guo, adding more people may be relocated if necessary.

The level of Hanjiang River, the second largest in Guangdong after the Pearl River, reached 26.44 meters by late Sunday night, the highest in 50 years, threatening at least 2.5 million people along the middle and lower reaches. The level has dropped nine-tenths of a meter since a sluice gate was opened at 4:00 AM on Monday, but is still 3.5 meters higher than the danger level, according to the flood control office of Fengshun County.

"Landslides and collapses have been frequent along the river dam area," said Guo. "If we hadn't opened the sluice gate, the dam might have overflowed and the losses would have been much more serious."

The village of Huanshi was almost completely submerged after the diversion. Most of the buildings submerged to the tops of their doors and villagers were piling their belongings on bamboo rafts.

"My house has been totally submerged and my whole family is staying with relatives," villager Zhan Meizhi told Xinhua.

"I don't know when we can return home, but village officials told us the government would take care of us and we will receive compensation," said Zhan.

The local government organized more than 500 police and army personnel to help with the evacuation and rescuers distributed drinking water and food.

In Guangdong alone, at least 20 people were killed, 279 injured, and four are missing, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The province's economic losses stand at 1.25 billion yuan (US$160 million), according to the ministry.

The ministry has sent rescue teams to the disaster-affected areas to assist with relief work.