Floods leave over 200 dead in China

Houses are flooded as a dyke is breached this week in Huarong County, in Hunan Province, on the southern bank of the Yangtze River. Water levels in the middle and lower reaches of great river are falling, but most remain above warning levels.
Houses are flooded as a dyke is breached this week in Huarong County, in Hunan Province, on the southern bank of the Yangtze River. Water levels in the middle and lower reaches of great river are falling, but most remain above warning levels.PHOTO: REUTERS

Situation 'still quite critical', with more heavy rains expected in the coming days

BEIJING • China said yesterday it would "prepare for the worst and strive for the best" after more than 200 people died in floods across the country.

"Although the water levels in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River are slowly dropping, most are still above warning levels," Mr Zhang Jiatuan, a spokesman for the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, told reporters.

He said the situation was "still quite critical" as central and eastern parts of the country expected a fresh round of heavy rain over the coming days.

More than 1,500 counties across 28 provinces have reported flooding, with 237 fatalities and 93 missing as of Wednesday.

Some 147,200 houses have been destroyed, Mr Zhang said, adding that over 5.46 million ha of farmland were inundated. Direct economic losses, he said, were estimated at 147 billion yuan (S$29 billion).

So far, the central and south-eastern parts of China have been the worst hit. As the rainy season continues, "the possibility of flooding in northern rivers cannot be ruled out", Mr Zhang said.

Safeguarding dykes, especially old and poorly maintained ones, remained a "major yet difficult" task in the near future, he added.

Flooding is common during the summer monsoon season, but rainfall has been particularly heavy this year and the authorities are continuing to closely monitor potential typhoons and address hazards.

Typhoon Nepartak, the first to hit China this year, made landfall in Fujian Province on July 9, claiming the lives of 21 and leaving 13 others missing, the local authorities said yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance said additional funding has been made available to help regions respond to the large number of "extreme weather events" this year, including heavy flooding in the south and central regions as well as drought in the north-west.

China currently uses weather modification technology - including cloud seeding - to induce rain during droughts, to reduce hail, and to clear the skies ahead of prestigious international events, such as the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The Finance Ministry said it has allocated 199 million yuan to fund China's weather modification programme.

XINHUA, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2016, with the headline 'Floods leave over 200 dead in China'. Print Edition | Subscribe