Thousands of houses collapse, 11 more die as floods continue in China
BEIJING (AFP) Jul 18, 2003
Thousands of houses collapsed and 11 people were killed in continuing floods and rains in southeastern China, officials said Friday, as rescuers searched for the bodies of 49 people killed in a huge rockslide.

Eleven people were killed when Sichuan province's Bazhong city was flooded this week after a heavy rainstorm, an official at the city's anti-flood office said.

"Most of the victims were killed in landslides or when their houses collapsed," said the official, surnamed Li.

Some areas received as much as 120 millimeters (4.8 inches) of rainfall on Wednesday, Li said.

The rainfall caused more than 200 geological incidents, the Xinhua news agency said, likely referring to landslides.

A total of 3,240 houses have collapsed in the city and 11,000 buildings are in dangerous condition, Xinhua said in a report. Transport routes were also severely damaged by floodwater, it said.

Local government officials had rushed to the site to help evacuate residents in flood-stricken areas.

Rescuers meanwhile continued to search for the bodies of 49 people trapped by a huge rockslide in the province's Danba district, a region populated by Tibetans.

The rockslide was caused when a hillside collapsed following heavy rain last Friday. Officials announced this week they had no hope of finding any of the 49 alive.

Some 51 tourists and local Tibetan song and dance performers were believed to have gathered in the district's Shuikazi village Friday night when rocks from the 4,000-meter (13,200-feet) Qiongshangou Mountain came crashing down on them.

"Now we can say there's no hope of survival because the landslide was very big. Because the road has been cut off, we can only use manpower to dig and search," a county official told AFP.

"Some of the rocks that fell from the hills were as big as two stories in a building -- measuring 100 to 200 cubic meters long. All we can do is search places where we smell rotting bodies."

Water levels, meanwhile, in central and eastern China's Yangtze River and Huai River remained above the warning mark, Xinhua said.

The level of the Zhengyangguan part of the Huai River in the eastern Anhui province had dropped slightly but it was still above the danger mark, it said.

Strong rain forecast for Sunday could worsen the situation, according to the Anhui province anti-flood command center, which said the situation was "serious".

The official death toll from flooding this year stood at 569 as of July 11, but more than 100 people have since been reported dead or missing, mostly in landslides in the Yangtze river basin.

The Huai River valley, which also covers Henan and Jiangsu provinces, is experiencing the worst flooding since 1991.

The Huai River has had a week of record-high waters that prompted authorities to relocate more than a million people.

Authorities are focusing on diverting water to areas not densely populated and patrolling the dykes.

In eastern Jiangsu province more than one million people are patrolling on the embankments of both the Huai River and the Yangtze River, Xinhua said.

Despite widespread flooding in many parts of China this summer, some provinces were experiencing severe drought at the same time.

More than 223,000 people were having difficulty obtaining potable water in east China's Jiangxi province, Xinhua said.

Since the beginning of July, the province has received an average of 19.5 millimeters (0.7 inches) of rainfall, which is about 67 percent less than last year, Xinhua said.

The situation is expected to worsen as Jiangxi is not expected to get any rain, but rather will experience high temperatures in the next 10 days, Xinhua said.

Provincial authorities are taking measures to provide adequate water for the residents and more than 600,000 people have been assigned to carry out relief work, according to the Jiangxi Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.