China fears worst flood in 12 years

July 15th, 2010 - 8:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, July 15 (IANS) Massive flooding similar to the one in 1998 that killed over 4,000 people in China could occur this year if rains continue to lash the country, an official said Thursday.
Rainstorms hit the central and southern parts of China since July 1. Heavy rains continued to lash the upper and middle reaches of the Yangtze river Thursday.

Some 118 people were killed and dozens of others are missing in floods and landslides. Over one million people in 11 provinces in central and southern China have been uprooted.

Floods and landslides have broken dykes and cut off power and water supplies.

More than 30,000 people were evacuated in Jiangxi province Wednesday and the water levels at three reservoirs in Poyang county crossed the danger mark.

The civil affairs ministry estimated the economic loss at 360 million yaun (about $53 million).

“Although the current situation along the Yangtze river has yet to reach the danger level, it is definitely at a crucial point,” said Wang Jingquan, director of flood control and drought relief of the Yangtze River Water Resources Committee.

The committee suggested Wednesday the water level of all sections of the Yangtze river had exceeded the annual average level for mid-July, China Daily reported on its website.

Since June 7, the water level in the Jiujiang section of the river and the Boyang Lake crossed the danger mark twice. The water level at the Three Gorges Dam reached 150 meters, five meters above the alert level during the flood season.

“We are definitely facing great challenges in flood control along the Yangtze river because heavy rainfalls usually hit the river valley in July and August,” Wang said.

The three massive floods in the Yangtze river valley in 1975, 1983 and 1998 occurred in July and August, he said.

“There will be no room for optimism as the incoming Typhoon Conson will add to the grave situation,” Wang said. “If heavy rains hit the upper reaches of the Yangtze river, coupled with rainfall in the middle and lower reaches, severe flooding similar to that in 1998 will occur.”

In 1998, China experienced its worst flooding in parts of the Yangtze river basin, which killed 4,150 people and uprooted 18.4 million others.

The State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters forecast that a recurrence of the massive flooding is possible this year because of similar weather conditions.

The China Meteorological Administration forecast Wednesday that the rain belt will move to regions along the Huaihe river from Friday to Monday.

Heavy rains will hit Sichuan province and Chongqing upstream of the Yangtze river this week, while rainstorms will batter Hainan and Guangdong provinces under the influence of Conson after Thursday, it said.

Landslides in Yunnan, Sichuan and Hunan provinces left at least 41 people dead and nearly 40 others missing this week.

In Qiaojia county in Yunnan, one of the worst-hit areas, landslides killed 17 people and 28 others were missing Wednesday, China National Radio reported.

In neighbouring Sichuan, 14 people were killed in two landslides. In Hunan, 10 people, including four children died in two separate landslides this week.

President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao have ordered relevant ministries and government departments to ensure safety of the public and minimise property loss.

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