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China rains: More than 250 killed or missing, 2.5 lakh trapped

Large parts of China have been inundated with rain this summer, killing more than 200 people. Photograph: (Reuters)

Reuters Shanghai, China Jul 23, 2016, 05.28 AM (IST)
More than 250 have been killed or missing in heavy torrential rains and floods that have wreaked havoc in China with about 2.5 lakh people still trapped in the central Hubei Province.

While the floods have claimed 114 lives, with 111 missing in Hubei province during the past few days, 18 have died with nine others listed missing in Anyang city, Henan Province.

In the devastation caused by torrential rains, the death toll has gone up to 132, and of the number of those missing to 120.

Last week's rain in Henan brought floods and disrupted traffic, power and telecommunications. Anyang was among the worst-hit where 192,700 were evacuated and 54,600 hectares of crops were damaged. More than 35,000 houses collapsed.

The city government has allocated 360 million Yuan (USD 54 million) for disaster relief. Relief supplies, including bottled water, food, quilts and tents, were airdropped to eight villages which have been cut off by road.

More than 300,000 have been involved in the rescue efforts.

More than 6.8 lakh have been affected and 10 townships swamped following continuous heavy rainfall from July 18 to 20, Tianmen city government in the Hubei Province said.

More than 500 soldiers, 1,000 rescuers and 62 speedboats have been sent for rescue work, while more than 10,000 have been sent to ensure the safety of river banks in the Hubei Province, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Local authorities have evacuated nearly 3.10 lakh people.

Flooding and rain-triggered landslides have caused the collapse of 52,900 houses and damaged 155,000 there.

Over 700,000 hectares of crops have also been destroyed, leading to direct economic losses of over 16 billion Yuan (USD 2.4 billion).

The worst-hit Daxian Village of Xingtai City was almost empty after a flash flood swamped it early Wednesday. At least eight villagers were killed and one missing.

"I heard people yelling 'flood' at about 2.30 am. I woke up my wife and children and rushed out of door immediately. In no time the water level was above my waist,"said Zhang Erqiang, a local villager.

"My wife and I panicked and we climbed to a tree, and stayed there for several hours until rescuers arrived in the morning," Zhang said.

"But our daughter and son were washed away and their bodies were just found," he said.

The news of heavy casualties in Xingtai, just 400km south of Beijing, only began emerging over the past 24 hours when thousands of local residents took to the street to protest against the alleged belated disaster warning and ineffective rescue efforts, the Hong-Kong based South China Morning Post reported.
 
Meanwhile, four Chinese officials have been suspended following a flash flood near the town of Xingtai in Hebei province provoked particular outrage after locals accused officials of failing to warn them of the impending deluge -- and trying to cover up the cause of the disaster, AFP reported.

The alleged mistake left at least 25 dead and 13 missing, and public anger over the situation mounted after pictures of the corpses of drowned children being pulled from the muddy floodwaters circulated online.

In the aftermath, residents voiced suspicions that the sudden flood, which struck early Wednesday while villagers slept, was man-made -- the result of a release of water from a local reservoir, rather than the breaking of a levee in a nearby river, as officials claimed.

Hebei's Communist Party committee has now announced it has suspended two Xingtai town officials, as well as a chief engineer from the provincial capital and a deputy county head, for "dereliction of duty" the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The four officials will be "subjected to accountability investigations and could face further punishment", it said.

( Agencies)
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