700 die as China reels under worst floods in decade

Last Updated: Wed, Jul 21, 2010 12:40 hrs

Floods triggered by torrential rains have claimed the lives of 701 people and left 347 missing in China, the government said Wednesday.

About 18 million people in 27 provinces and municipalities had been relocated since the flooding started in April, the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters and the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.

Over seven million hectares of farmland were affected and 645,000 houses were destroyed in the worst floods in a decade. Direct economic losses estimated at about 142 billion yuan (about $20 billion), Xinhua reported.

The water levels of more than 230 rivers had been above the danger mark since April. Some areas along the Yangtze river suffered worst flooding in 30 years.

Liu Ning, secretary-general of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, said at a press conference that the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze river had been crucial in controlling the floods.

The flow on the river's upper reaches topped 70,000 cubic metres a second Tuesday -- 20,000 cubic metres more than the flow during the 1998 floods that killed 4,150 people and the highest level since the dam was completed last year.

'The sluice gates have kept the water levels of the dam at 154 metres, enabling the dam to block four billion cubic metres of water and preventing severe flooding in the lower reaches,' Liu added.

The reservoir has a capacity of 22.15 billion cubic metres for flood control, as water levels could rise to as high as 175 metres, he said.

Flood waters had breached six small reservoirs this year, but timely evacuations prevented any casualties, he said.

Liu also urged authorities to remain alert as the flood season was far from over, and the six to eight typhoons expected to land later this year would bring more rain and worsen the situation.

About 287,000 military personnel had been mobilized for anti-flood operations.

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