June 24, 2010 / 9:15 AM / 10 years ago

Flood-hit China battles rain, 365 dead so far

FUZHOU, China (Reuters) - Flood-battered parts of south China battled fresh downpours on Thursday after at least 365 people died as rivers broke their banks and landslides cut road and rail links in a week of torrential rain.

A local flood victim holds his wife on a flooded street in Fuzhou, Jiangxi province, June 23, 2010. REUTERS/Aly Song

The government has rushed troops, food and tents to flood-hit regions, where millions of residents have been displaced by pelting rain that has swollen reservoirs and caused economic losses of around 70.9 billion yuan ($10.4 billion).

Premier Wen Jiabao visited Fuzhou, a city in Jiangxi province at the center of the disaster, to meet residents and urge on the thousands of troops and civilian rescue workers, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Communist Party-run government has mounted a heavily publicized show of national unity against adversity.

The threat from the flooding is not over yet. Rescuers in Changkai town, near Fuzhou, were slowed by rain as they tried to reach residents perched in flooded towns and villages. More rain is still expected.

“Our two boats will go out today to rescue people. But comparatively, the difficulty of our rescue work will increase today compared to days when it is not raining,” said one civilian rescue worker, Zhou Fuyu.

“Rain affects a person’s vision and it also creates difficulty for us when maneuvering the rescue boat.”

The flood-battered Changkai dyke near Fuzhou suffered a fresh breach on Wednesday. About 100,000 residents fled after a first break in its wall late on Monday.

The government expects the breaches will be fixed in six days, Xinhua said, though the unceasing rain could make that hard. The work will begin on Friday.

“Workers are battling to build a road to transport stones and other materials and we plan to block the breaches in six days,” it quoted an unnamed official as saying.

The government said heavy rain across much of southern China over the past week has killed at least 365 people and left 147 missing.

More than 2.4 million people have been evacuated, though many are moved only short distances.

In Fengcheng, another small city in Jiangxi, a 50,000 square-meter slice of a rain-sodden mountainside threatened to slide off and crush homes, Xinhua reported.

Officials ordered rescue workers to move threatened residents. Hundreds of troops with earth-moving equipment worked to avert a massive slide.

Slideshow (6 Images)

Water levels in the Changkai town and neighboring villages fell slightly from Wednesday night. With ankle-deep water at some places, some residents recovered wet belongings and prepared to stay in their homes, resisting officials’ advice that they move to temporary relief centers set up in the Fuzhou city center.

Xiong Dongmei, 38, said she was undecided on whether to stay or go. “The flood water receded yesterday. When the water level rises, our concern is that we are unable to buy food and other items here,” she said.

($1=6.811 Yuan)

Additional reporting by Chris Buckley and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING

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