Beijing (UPI) Aug 23, 2010
China has been hit by 26,000 geological disasters in the first 7 months of this year, a government official said.
That's nearly 10 times the number of occurrences during the same period last year.
China's Minister of Land and Resources Xu Shaoshi said the disasters, including landslides and mudslides, were due to an increase in extreme weather conditions such as severe droughts and rainstorms, as well as the impact from earthquakes, Press Trust of India reports.
Xu rejected criticism attributing the country's disasters to hydropower plants China has built along major rivers, particularly Three Gorges, the world's largest and most expensive dam. Its construction involved the submersion of 1,350 villages and the displacement of 1.3 million people from their homes.
For months, China has been grappling with severe flooding in different parts of the country, triggered by a successive series of heavy rainstorms, resulting in the worst landslides to hit the country in 60 years.
Earlier this month, at least 1,400 people were killed and another 330 were missing in the northwest province of Gansu from massive mudslides.
In southwest China's Yunnan Province, 29 people were killed and 63 are missing following rain-triggered mudslides that hit the remote mountainous town of Gongshan last Wednesday.
Mudslides also killed more than 18 people in Wenchuan and Qingchuan counties in southwest China's Sichuan, an area which was devastated by a massive earthquake in 2008.
Over the weekend, torrential rains in North China flooded the Yalu River on the border of China and North Korea.
By Saturday night, the water level at a monitoring station in Dandong City rose 7.7 feet above the warning mark, the highest level in 10 years and the second highest since 1949, the Beijing Times said.
Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated from the city, which serves as a crucial trading point between the two countries.
An additional 30,000 people were evacuated from outlying regions where the river had burst its banks in 158 different places.
The Korean Central News Agency reported that at least 5,000 people were evacuated in Sinuiju, with parts of the city "completely inundated."
Unlike seismic activity used to predict earthquakes, existing scientific methods cannot predict a landslide or mudslide, said Zhang Zuochen, a geologist with China University of Geosciences, the Press Trust reports.
"We can only predict that a gully is vulnerable to a mudslide and that the disaster will occur under specific circumstances. But we cannot predict when it will occur," Zhang said.
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