06/18/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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Entire cities under several feet of water as monsoon rains continue

The latest floods are the worst to hit southern China in 50 years. Dams are being shored up but so far 134,000 houses have been brought down, 2.32 million hectares of cropland wiped out, and thousands of factories closed. Losses are estimated at 27.7 billion yuan. In quake-affected Sichuan landslides are a real danger. Rain is forecast for northern China.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Southern China is reeling under the worst flooding in decades, according to the Civil Affairs Ministry. More than 1.66 million people have already been evacuated. Rain-triggered floods have toppled 134,000 houses, damaged or destroyed 2.32 million hectares of cropland and caused economic losses estimated at 27.7 billion yuan (US$ 4.2 billion). Now dams are at risk and the authorities have rushed hundreds of people to shore them up and more than 40 rivers are exceeding their warning levels as tens of thousands of people continue to be evacuated.

Weather forecasts expect more torrential rain for the whole week in Guangdong, Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi and Sichuan. The eastern provinces of Gansu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Guizhou, Yunnan and Fujian have also been affected.

Waters exceeded warning levels by 6.8 metres on the Xijiang River in Guangxi's Wuzhou City, home to 2.9 million people.

In many areas waters has reached rooftops and many roads have been cut off by rising flood waters or rain-induced landslides.

Even in Guangzhou and Shenzhen, huge metropolitan areas with tens of million of people, are partly under water.

Factories in industrial hubs like Foshan, Zhongshan, Guangzhou are closed.

In Guangdong flooding is causing havoc for tens of thousands of manufacturing plants, already sorely tested by snowstorms this past winter.

In quake-devastated Sichuan, non-stop rains threaten to cause landslides. In Wenchuan County 70,000 people were evacuated.

Since the start of the rainy season at least 171 people have been killed and 51 are still missing.

The emergency is such that Deputy Prime Minister Hui Liangyu said that the priority remains limiting as much as possible the loss of life and property.

Again uncontrolled deforestation has been blamed for the flooding. In many areas entire hills are denuded of trees and left without protection against raging waters, a situation that easily triggers landslides.

Torrential rains are also expected In northern China and the warning level on the 5,500 km Yellow River has been raised.

In the past this important waterway was the scene of major floods.

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