Scores killed in China floods

Torrential rains battering south and central China have left 175 people dead and forced the evacuation of 1,7-million, as washed out roads and railways hampered rescue work on Monday.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao called for stepped-up efforts to battle flooding that has left 107 missing since June 13, as more rains were forecast in the next few days, the government said.

“In the coming days another round of heavy rain will hit areas in the south. We are facing a bigger test, so we need to make better preparations to avoid disaster,” Wen said in footage broadcast on state television.

“We are in a crucial period. We must be fully prepared and step up organisation of disaster response work,” he said during a visit to the water-logged region of Guangxi.

The torrential rains and flooding have affected more than 25-million people and caused 29,6-billion yuan ($4,3-billion) in estimated economic losses, the Civil Affairs Ministry said.

The ministry’s latest death toll was up from the 147 dead and 93 missing reported on Sunday.

Water levels of at least 35 rivers, mostly in Fujian, Jiangxi and Hunan provinces, have exceeded their warning marks and are threatening surrounding cities and farmlands, it said.

Landslides were wreaking havoc in mountainous areas throughout the region.

Soldiers and armed police have been sent to the hardest hit areas to help the rescue effort, the government said.

With roads and bridges washed out, the government dispatched hundreds of rescue boats to inundated areas in an effort to evacuate thousands stranded by the flooding.

A total of 393 000 homes have been damaged, 144 000 houses have collapsed and nearly 1,36-million hectares of crops have been affected, the government said.

Torrential rains continued to fall on the hard-hit regions of Fujian, Zhejiang, Jiangxi and Guangxi on Monday, with downpours predicted to continue over the next 10 days, the National Meteorological Centre said.

The weather bureau has said that some of the rainfall in the south was up to three times greater than normal years.

Photos issued by the state media showed washed out roads and people wading through waist-high water in flooded areas.

The unrelenting rainfall has also disrupted dozens of train services to the affected regions, including some services from Beijing and Shanghai, leaving thousands of passengers stranded, media reports said. — AFP

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