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Flood-hit China braces for more storms
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) June 20, 2011

A general view shows a flood-hit area of Lanxi, east China's Zhejiang province on June 20, 2011. Flood-hit areas of central and southern China braced for more heavy rains Monday after millions of people were forced to evacuate or were otherwise affected by the early onset of the rainy season. Photo courtesy AFP.

Flood-hit areas of central and southern China braced for more heavy rains Monday with several major rivers already swollen after downpours that have affected millions and left scores dead or missing.

Water Resources Minister Chen Lei warned that at least 10 major rivers in the affected areas were threatening to burst their banks.

"Severe floods triggered by heavy rains will continue to threaten parts of southern China," he said Sunday in remarks posted on his ministry's website.

"There is an increasing possibility that downpours, with enhanced frequency and intensity, will continue to lash regions in the south."

Persistent rains since early June have swamped many areas across a wide swathe of China and the state weather bureau on Monday forecast continued downpours over the next three days, with the summer typhoon season approaching.

More than 1.6 million people in 13 provinces, regions and municipalities had been evacuated from their homes from June 3-20 due to flooding, the civil affairs ministry said Monday.

The rains had left at least 261 people dead or missing while more than 36 million have been "affected" one way or another by the rain and flooding, it added.

A three-hour downpour dumped a near-record 312 millimetres (12.5 inches) of rain in Wangmo county in Guizhou province in the southwest, while over 200 millimetres of rain had fallen over short periods in other regions, Chen said.

State television broadcast footage of the flooded streets of Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province in the centre of the country.

Newspapers carried photos of crowded boats evacuating stranded villagers and numerous flooded roads. In the east of the country, a 30-metre-deep sinkhole slashed into a highway.

Authorities have evacuated 292,000 people from along the Qiantang river in Zhejiang province on the east coast after heavy rains caused the river to swell dangerously, official Xinhua news agency said.

Dykes stretching more than 70 kilometres (40 miles) along the Lan river in the Zhejiang city of Lanxi were at risk of bursting and authorities were preparing evacuation plans for residents in the area, the agency added.

Heavy rains since Saturday have caused the river's water levels to rise sharply, with the Lan reaching its highest mark since 1966, it said.

The Lan was already overflowing at some points while other dyke sections were barely holding.

Authorities have put direct economic losses in Zhejiang province alone at 7.69 billion yuan ($1.19 billion) -- and fruit and vegetable prices have soared by as much as 40 percent after the heavy rains destroyed crops, Xinhua said.

The storms have come as a jarring change for provinces including Hubei, Anhui, and Zhejiang, parts of which had until recently sweltered under the worst drought in decades.

Several days of torrential rain in the southwestern province of Sichuan left nine people dead and 27 missing by Sunday, the country's weather forecaster said on its news website Monday.

In Yunnan, also in the southwest, five people were killed and another was missing after surging floodwaters swept through a pair of rural villages during a hailstorm on Sunday, Xinhua said.

And in the far-western Xinjiang region, four people were reported missing in flash floods that struck on Sunday, the news agency added.

China is hit by heavy summer rainfalls every year.

Torrential downpours across large swathes of the country last year triggered the nation's worst flooding in a decade, leaving more than 4,300 people dead or missing in floods, landslides and other rain-related disasters.

One devastating mudslide in the northwestern province of Gansu killed 1,500 people last August.

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Water lilies cause massive Philippines flooding
Manila (AFP) June 20, 2011 - More than half a million people in the southern Philippines have been affected by flooding after water lilies clogged the country's second longest river, officials said Monday.

The lilies smothered a section of the 320 kilometre (200 mile) Rio Grande, preventing the water from emptying into the Moro Gulf to the southwest of Mindanao island after strong rains over the past week, authorities said.

The Rio Grande is the longest river in the Philippines' main southern island of Mindanao, and is the country's second biggest river system overall.

"Twenty-three municipalities are already flooded, affecting 559,067 people," regional social welfare head Pombaen Kader told AFP by telephone from the southern city of Cotabato.

Water levels started going up in recent days owing to heavy rain, and "the river flooded its banks because water could not pass through thick water lilies", she said.

Kader said the water had reached rooftops in some places, forcing authorities to evacuate more than 1,000 people. Many others had refused to leave, despite their homes being partially submerged, she said.

Troops have been struggling to cut through the packed water lilies while battling intermittent rains and strong currents, regional military spokesman Colonel Prudencio Asto told AFP.

"We had about 400 to 500 soldiers helping out in the effort. They are trying to cut through the growth using chain saws," Asto said.

He said that last week the water lilies covered up to 25 hectares (62 acres) of water.

"The growth was about 10 feet thick in some areas and so tightly packed that they (troops) could walk on top of it," Asto said.

"We are racing against time because forecasts of more rains could complicate the situation."

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More than one million evacuated in China floods
Beijing (AFP) June 17, 2011
More than one million people in China have been evacuated following downpours that have raised water levels in rivers to critical highs, and triggered floods and landslides, the government has said. The summer rains have left at least 168 people dead or missing so far, and weather authorities warned Friday that flood-hit areas across the southern half of China would experience a fresh round ... read more

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