September 25, 2008

Eight Killed, 38 Missing As Torrential Rain Hits China Quake Zone

Text of report in English by official Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency)

["China's Quake Zone Hit by Downpours, With Eight Deaths, 38 Missing"]

CHENGDU, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) - At least eight people were killed and 38 were missing amid torrential rain and ensuing disasters in Sichuan Province that was struggling to recover from the May 12 earthquake.

The figures were registered as of Wednesday afternoon in Mianyang City since heavy rain began slashing the region on Monday night, which triggered mountain torrents, cave-ins and landslides.

In Beichuan County alone, five were confirmed dead and more than 300 people sustained injuries, said Zeng Wanming, acting mayor of Mianyang City, which administrates Beichuan.

Some 1,100 houses were damaged or collapsed, according to the local committee in charge of post-quake restoration.

More than 6,500 people, including 97 primary school pupils, had been evacuated to safe places.

Food supplies were temporarily ensured as drivers managed to bring rice, vegetables and meat to the affected areas.

However, 53 soldiers and 32 workers, who were repairing a mountainous road section damaged in the May. 12 earthquake, were still stranded in the rain and ensuing landslides, Zeng said.

Rescuers were trying to establish contacts with them.

The water level in Renjiaping Village reached people's waist, and telecommunication was partially cut off around the county seat.

At a relocation centre there, which accommodates about 4,500 people, officials were considering whether to remove them again or not, as a 50-cm-wide crack appeared in an adjacent mountain.

"We will keep a close eye on the situation. Even if new landslides or collapses happened, we'll be able to evacuate people in time," said Zeng.

Tangjiashan quake lake, the largest among 34 lakes formed in the quake, saw its water level rising by five meters over the past days.

It was holding about 70 million cubic meters of water, while the maximum capacity was registered as 250 million cubic meters after the quake.

Experts said it would not pose a serious threat as the cofferdam stood firm, despite possible rising rainfall on Thursday.

Local party chiefs were supervising relief work.

Forecasters said the rain was expected to subside on Thursday.

The county seat of Beichuan was almost flattened in the rare quake that left 69,227 people dead, 17,923 missing and 374,643 injured in Sichuan and its neighbouring regions.

Li Chunqiong, a resident from the worst-hit Liulin community, described the disastrous night like this: "It was raining heavily with lightening strikes and we dared no sleep. At about six in the morning, we heard the sound of house collapsing. We rushed out. The water reached our thighs."

Jiang Xinbin, another resident, worried where to live. "We know that our nation did a lot for us after the earthquake, it was not easy for them to find such a place to relocate us. But who knows that we are now plagued again, by the landslide?"

In Qingchuan county where maximum rainfall reached 180 millimeters, five of the 36 villages and townships still had their communication and traffic cut off by 11 p.m., with many others saw their roads, power and water supply severed.

Rescuers are hurrying to the sites.

In Dujiangyan, which received 130 millimeters of rainfall, a dam nearly 10 meters long collapsed and another was damaged. Reinforcement work is under way.

By Wednesday noon, 2,476 houses were found collapsed in Shifang city, while some 3,218 were damaged. About 3,500 people were evacuated.

Downpour also ruined 736 hectares of crops, triggering 25 landslides in the city and damaging eight bridges.

Heavy rainfall also pelted other quake-battered places in Sichuan, such as the provincial capital of Chengdu and the May 12 earthquake epicentre Wenchuan county.

Casualties were being verified.

Originally published by Xinhua news agency, Beijing, in English 1643 24 Sep 08.

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