Scores dead as floods, storm wreak havoc in China

from Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
Published on 04 Sep 2003
BEIJING, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Floods, landslides and the strongest typhoon to hit China in a quarter of a century have killed at least 86 people and many others are still missing, residents and provincial officials said on Thursday.

The severe weather had caused losses of more than $700 million, state media reported.

In the northwestern province of Shaanxi, 34 people were missing after 12 days of heavy rain triggered the worst flooding in the region in 40 years, state radio said.

About 430,000 people, out of 4.9 million affected, were evacuated to higher ground as meteorologists forecast the rain would last for about another week, it said.

In southern China, Typhoon Dujuan killed 38 people in the coastal province of Guangdong before weakening as it moved into the neighbouring Guangxi region.

Many of the victims died on a construction site in Shenzhen, next to Hong Kong, where a half-finished building collapsed.

The typhoon, the strongest storm to hit the Pearl River delta since 1979, swept through Guangdong on Tuesday and Wednesday, sending advertising billboards flying through the air, uprooting trees and power poles and flooding streets.

Xinhua news agency said crops, highways, telecommunications, water and power supplies all suffered serious damage during the storm.

Part of Shenzhen's power grid was damaged during the typhoon, but state television said on Thursday it was back up and running.

Shenzhen, Huizhou, Shanwei and Shantou in eastern Guangdong were the hardest hit. The eye of the storm narrowly missed Hong Kong, where the storm dumped heavy rain but caused little damage in one of Asia's top financial centres.

The Xinhua news agency said about 1,000 people had been injured in southern China.

The direct economic losses caused by the typhoon are set at more than two billion yuan ($242 million), Xinhua said.

In the north of the country, about 20,000 people were keeping vigil round the clock on the banks of the swollen Weihe river in case it breached flood defences, an official said.

The Weihe, the Yellow River's biggest tributary, has already burst its banks in five places in the northwestern province of Shaanxi.

About 25,000 people were laying sandbags along the banks, an official said.

"The river's at its highest level ever," a flood control official told Reuters by telephone. "There are 34 missing people and little hope of finding them alive."

Economic losses in the province were already four billion yuan ($480 million), state radio said.

Floods have also killed at least 10 people in the neighbouring province of Henan.

In Guangxi, a weather official said rain was heavy at times on Thursday, but had not caused any disasters and would help ease a drought that had been gripping the region. ($1 = 8.28 yuan)

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