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Rising Seawaters Lapping at Windowsills on S China Island

A tourist walks past trunks of dead trees of the Casuarina species on a beach of south China's Weizhou Island where rising sea water is submerging beaches, coastlines and buffer forests, in this photo taken on August 27, 2008.

Thousands of people living on a south China island fear rising sea levels may soon take their homes and their livelihoods.

The sea is eating into the 25-square-kilometer Weizhou Island, submerging beaches, coastlines and buffer forests.

The 15,000 residents of the island, 20 nautical miles south of Beihai City, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, have seen the seawater creeping inland for the past decade.

"In the bay area were buffer forests, but the seawater has crept 60 to 70 meters into the island," said 76-year-old resident Zhou Ziquan.

Jiang Taile, a restaurant owner, said he once drove his car on the beach up to 40 meters away from the present water line, which is spotted with the stumps of trees that have died in the salt water.

The beach area was full of seawater even at low tide, said Jiang.

Chen Xiangxu, a Weizhou Town construction official, said seawater had made inroads of more than 100 meters at some sites.

The high tides even splashed the windows of homes behind the island's levees, said Chen.

Many residents worried that the island would be eaten away, Chen said, but they were yet to consider moving their homes.

High tides were gradually getting higher according to records, said Li Wuquan, head of the State Oceanic Administration's Beihai Oceanic Environment Monitoring Center.

Global warming was believed by experts to be a key cause of the rising seas, but there were also human factors. The protective coral reef has been destroyed by the taking of coral for money and fishing with explosives. Tourist diving at scenic sites also affected the reefs.

"Little remains of the coral reef, which helped prevent erosion in the shore area around the island," said Jiang.

The official said the township government had banned fishing with explosives near the reef and been cracking down on coral harvesting. Some coastal areas have been listed as special protection areas.

According to a 2007 Sea Level Bulletin released by the State Oceanic Administration earlier this year, the seas rose by 0.09 meter on average around China over the last 30 years, but the rate was accelerating.

Sea levels have been predicted to rise between 9 and 88 centimeters this century due to global warming.

The hollowed-out tree trunk flushed by rising sea water is seen on a beach of south China's Weizhou Island in this photo taken on August 27, 2008.

(Xinhua News Agency August 30, 2008)

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