June 24, 2005 in Nation/World

Flooding death toll tops 500 in China

Joe McDonald Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Chinese residents carry their belongings as they evacuate their homes Wednesday in a flooded area in Wuzhou city, in southwest China’s Guangxi region. About 570,000 people were evacuated from flood-prone areas in Guangxi.
(Full-size photo)

BEIJING – Flooding and mudslides have killed more than 500 people across China in the past two weeks, making this one of the country’s deadliest summer rainy seasons in a decade, the government said today.

Another 137 people were missing after two weeks of torrential rain that forced the evacuation of 1.4 million. Economic losses were estimated at $2.5 billion, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Damage was worst in the south, where the hardest-hit area was a five-province swath that includes Guangdong, China’s most populous province and the heart of its booming export industries. At least 97 people had been killed and another 41 were missing in the south, the report said.

Overall the death toll rose to at least 536, more than double the previous estimate of 248. That’s higher than most of the rainy seasons of the past decade, though still below that of 1998, when 4,150 people were killed in summer flooding in central and northeastern China, Xinhua said.

Roads and railways were cut by rising floodwaters, including the main Beijing-Hong Kong rail line, Xinhua said.

Flooding in parts of Guangxi, a poor, mountainous region on China’s southern coast, was the worst in a century, while the inundation along the Min River in Fujian was the most severe in two decades.

Newspaper photos showed soldiers and police rowing boatloads of residents down flooded streets. News reports said floodwaters in some parts of Guangxi reached the third floor of buildings.

China suffers hundreds of flooding deaths every summer in its south and northeast. The impact of seasonal rains is magnified by environmental damage from decades of intensive farming and tree-cutting that have left denuded hillsides unable to trap rain. Millions of people live in vulnerable areas on reclaimed former flood plains.

In Fujian, a mudslide swept a bus and a car off a highway and into a river Thursday near the city of Jian’ou, leaving 23 people missing, Xinhua said.

In Guangxi, some 42,000 people were evacuated from low-lying areas of the industrial city of Wuzhou in case a surging river that flows through the city overwhelmed protective dikes, Cheng said.

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