July 17, 2006

Floods ravage south China, kill at least 170

BEIJING (Reuters) - Torrential rains have killed at least
170 people across south China since the weekend, flooding
cities, sweeping away houses and cutting off utilities as well
as rail and road links, state media reported on Monday.

The rains were triggered by Tropical Storm Bilis, which
killed dozens in the Philippines and Taiwan before hitting
China on Friday, where it was supposed to weaken but instead
wrought havoc across six provinces.

At least 170 died and 138 were still missing as downpours
continued on Monday in many of the worst-hit areas in Hunan,
Guangdong and Fujian provinces, state-run Xinhua news agency
and China Central Television (CCTV) said.

Xinhua cited the national disaster relief office as saying
that a total of 20 million people had been affected by the
rains, 2.2 million of whom had been evacuated.

Direct economic losses as a result of the storm totaled 12
billion yuan ($1.5 billion), Xinhua said, as 160,000 hectares
of crops and 113,000 houses were destroyed.

Rains are forecast to continue over the next two days in
Fujian, Hunan and Guangdong provinces.

Nearly two million residents and soldiers have been
mobilised in Hunan to battle back flood waters that are
expected to peak along the province's primary river, the Xiang,
on Tuesday, Xinhua said.

CCTV showed footage of flooded rice fields and of soldiers
evacuating villagers stranded on the roofs of their homes.

A section of the Beijing-Zhuhai highway that links the
country's capital to China's southern industrial hubs has been
submerged by water as deep as three metres (9 ft 10 in) in
Hunan, Xinhua said, adding that "its resumption is unlikely in
the near future."

More than 8,800 train passengers were stranded for hours
when the Beijing-Guangzhou railway was cut, CCTV said, adding
that authorities have suspended service on more than 100
passenger trains along the rail link, one of the country's most

South China is plagued by rainstorms every summer, but this
year's flood season has been particularly deadly, already
claiming hundreds of lives before Bilis struck.

($1=8.0048 yuan)