China braces for further floods
BEIJING, China -- China is readying itself for further heavy flooding, with heavy rains expected to hit the already devastated southern provinces in the coming days.
Flooding is forecast in Hunan, Jiangxi, and Fujian provinces and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, the China Daily reported Monday.
Army units are preparing for emergency operations, with water levels expected to reach 120 to 180 mm in some areas, while Premier Zhu Rongji stressed that flood control "has an extremely important bearing on economic development and social stability."
Already tens of thousands of soldiers, People's Armed Police and reservists are part of rescue operations in at least seven provinces as land and mudslides hamper efforts to stem the rising waters across the country.
More than 220 people have died in the flooding which has affected more than 30 million people across the country.
While floods often plague China in summer, the latest deluge has raised fears of a repeat of 1998, when the most devastating downpour in half a century killed more than 4,000 people and inundated 240,000 square kilometers (92,000 square miles) of farmland in China's rice bowl.
Only last week, Premier Zhu Rongji warned that worse flooding may take place in the summer.
While inspecting the provinces of Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi and Anhui, Zhu asked officials to prepare for "even more severe flooding than that in 1998."
Zhu also said that party and government chiefs of each district had to take personal responsibility for the effectiveness of flood control or rescue measures.
The government has allocated more than $2 million for relief in flood stricken regions.
In western Shaanxi, the hardest hit region, the China Daily reports damage of $140 million, while floods in eastern Fujian have caused $12 million of damage alone since Friday.
In south west Sichuan province, 62 people have died, seven are missing and the area has seen damage worth $266 million.
China has been striving to limit the potential of floods to bring chaos and destruction to the country.
The government has banned tree felling, urged farmers to plant trees and pushed ahead with projects like the mammoth Three Gorges Dam, which Beijing says will help control floods.
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