Massive China Floods Kill 175, Affect 36 Million People

Floods caused by torrential rains in southern and eastern China since the beginning of the month have left at least 175 people dead and another 86 missing, the Civil Affairs Ministry said Monday.

Heavy bouts of rain since June 3 have affected over 36 million people and left 1.6 million displaced in the provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Fujian, Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan, Guangdong, Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan, the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and the Chongqing Municipality, the ministry said in a statement.

In Zhejiang province alone, about 8,400 houses collapsed and many highways were closed, Xinhua news agency reported.

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A total of 241,600 hectares (597,000 acres) of farmland have been destroyed and 1,846 factories have suspended operations in the province – one of China’s leading manufacturing centers – incurring 7.69 billion yuan ($1.18 billion) in direct economic losses, the agency reported.

The rain-ravaged people thus await another crisis, a steep rise in food prices.

In view of this damage to the crops, the supply of essential commodities, especially vegetable production has already come down by about 20 percent. This has pushed prices up by as much as 40 percent in the provincial capital of Hangzhou, according to Xinhua.

Farmers have also complained about the shortage of fruits and grains. With the rise in prices of green vegetables, the pressure on inflation has increased, which is already at a three-year high of 5.5 percent.

China has mobilized troops to rescue stricken farmers and distribute food, but some villagers from the Zhejiang province said more could have been done to prevent the flooding in the first place..

Villagers said the breaches when they first appeared in the dikes were not large and could easily have been fixed. “The government did not do anything. None of the local officials tried to salvage the situation,” a villager told U.K.’s Guardian.

Zhao Fayuan, deputy director of Zhejiang provincial flood control headquarters, said Monday that more than 70 km (43 miles) of rural dikes remain close to overflowing in the area around Lanxi city in Zhejiang, reported China Daily. More than 20,000 people could be affected if the dikes are breached. Water has already flowed over a few minor dikes, he added.

Questions have also been raised about the efficacy of famed Three Gorges Dam, which was built in the area and was expected to lessen the impact of the yearly flooding.

Hubei province, for instance, where the Three Gorges Dam is located, has been severely affected by the floods, according to Xinhua.

China Three Gorges Corporation released a social responsibility report Sunday in its defense, even as plans and progress of four other hydroelectric power stations were unveiled.

“We closely monitor weather conditions and hydrological changes on the Yangtze River and are prepared to control larger floods,” said Chen Fei, General Manager of the China Three Gorges Corporation. “Flood control is the most important task of our project now,” he said, according to China Daily.

Rain-triggered floods have also affected 19,000 people in the northwest province of Gansu, where heavy rains have destroyed 474 homes, the provincial Department of Civil Affairs said Monday.

The floods have severely affected transportation in the province city of Dunhuang where over 16 km (9.94 miles of railways have been submerged and a major bridge has been destroyed. Electricity and other supplies have also been disrupted.

However, no death due to rain has been reported.

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