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78 dead or missing in China storms and floods

SHANGHAI: Torrential rain is set to hit China's eastern coastal regions this week after overwhelming large parts of the southwest, inundating villages and tourist spots and displacing more than 700,000 people, state weather forecasters said yesterday.

Nearly 14 million people in 26 provinces had been affected by storms and floods by Friday, with 744,000 evacuated, the China Daily reported, citing the Ministry for Emergency Management.

The ministry said 78 people have been confirmed dead or missing, with direct economic losses at 27.8 billion yuan (S$5.5 billion).

Much of the damage has hit south-western regions like Guangxi and Sichuan, and the municipality of Chongqing on the upper reaches of the Yangtze river last week experienced its worst floods since 1940.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has underlined the importance of putting people first.

Noting that some areas hit severely by floods will enter the typhoon season, Mr Xi asked departments including the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters to strengthen coordination and guide the flood prevention and relief work in relevant regions.

Regions along the banks of the Yangtze and its tributaries are traditionally vulnerable to flooding in China's summer, with the impact of heavy rainfall worsened by deforestation, dwindling flood plains and the diversion of natural river systems for hydropower and irrigation.

Rainfall has also been heavier than usual, with water volumes in 148 rivers already reaching emergency levels by mid-June. Local authorities are under instruction to pay attention to potential dam and reservoir collapses.

Some Yangtze tributaries have already experienced their worst floods ever, including the Xiaojinchuan in Sichuan province. The Water Resources Ministry warned last week that other smaller rivers could be "stricken by major floods" and lakes are also under close scrutiny.

The authorities have promised to minimise flood damage in the city of Wuhan as it struggles to recover from the coronavirus outbreak.

Wuhan, which lies on the Yangtze, was hit by China's last major floods in 1998, which killed more than 3,000 people and left 14 million people homeless. - REUTERS, CHINA DAILY

WORLD