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Swollen Rivers Still Threaten Millions of Chinese Lives

Continuous rainstorms have continued to raise the water levels of many rivers across China, putting the lives of millions of people at risk and causing huge economic losses.

The water level of the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze river has continued to rise quickly with many sections exceeding the danger line.

Wuhan, capital city of central China's Hubei Province, is on high alert as the level of the Hanjiang river, a main tributary of the Yangtze that passes through the city, rose to 27.85 meters at one point on Thursday, 35 centimeters above the danger line.

The local authorities have stepped up patrols along dikes and sluice gates and have prepared sandbags and soil for possible breaches. Further emergency rescue drills will be held on Friday.

The water resources commission of the Yangtze River said the water level, which is the highest so far this year, would continue to rise over the next few days.

More than 52 counties and cities in Hubei have been affected by downpours since Saturday. More than 1.39 million people from the 13 worst-hit counties were affected and 100,700 hectares of cropland were damaged, incurring economic losses of 241 million yuan (US$31.8 million).

Meanwhile, the fourth flood crest since early July is expected to arrive at Wangjiaba, a key hydrological station of Huaihe River in east China on Friday due to continuous rain. Trunk streams of the river have been swollen for 18 days with the water level exceeding the danger line by at least 0.5 meters, according to the Anhui Provincial Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

In the southwestern province of Guizhou, a new round of rainstorms hit at least 24 counties over the past day, resulting in the water level of many rivers rising or exceeding the warning line. About ten large and medium-sized reservoirs have seen their water levels breaking the limits and were forced to open sluice gates, which affected 320,000 people and incurred 106 million yuan (US$14 million) in economic losses, according to the provincial flood control office.

One was killed and two other were injured in a landslide that hit Baimang Township in the southeastern part of Guizhou on Wednesday. More than 3,000 people of Pingtang County have been evacuated after a total of 10,000 were stranded in the flood since Wednesday.

The chances of survival for the nine miners who have been trapped for four days in a flooded colliery in Shanxi Province have become very slim as further rainwater rushed down a mountain into the pit on Thursday afternoon, forcing the rescue operation to be stopped.

In northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, 32 people were killed and three went missing in rain-triggered floods over the past ten days.

China's death toll from natural disasters was 715 with 129 people missing by July 16 this year, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

(Xinhua News Agency July 27, 2007)

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