06/06/2005, 00.00
CHINA
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Flooding and mudslides kill over 200 people

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The situation is dramatic in China's central provinces where torrential rains have killed 204 people last week and left another 79 missing.

Some 138,000 homes have been destroyed and more than 200,000 left uninhabitable in the affected areas where some 17 million people live.

Currently, many villages are isolated, without power or telephone. Roads are flooded and inaccessible with public security units patrolling them.

Some 600,000 hectares of agricultural land is under water and the harvest is lost.

In Hunan province, 75 people died with another 50 missing. Further west, in Sichuan and Guizhou provinces the total number of dead has not been determined.

"It looks like people's houses were just swept away by a broom," Zhou Deqing, manager of a mine in the town of Taizhimiao in Hunan province, said.

"Houses along the river banks have been totally destroyed. Even the foundations of some homes have been washed away and trees near the river have been uprooted," Mr Zhou said.

Many villagers left homeless were taking temporary shelter in buildings in his factory complex.

A local government official said that search for the missing was going on with the assistance of the police.

In the meantime, three people have died of typhoid in Hunan's Xinshao County. Although hygienic conditions have already been compromised, local authorities, fearing an outbreak because of the disease's ability to spread quickly, are stockpiling supplies of typhoid inoculations.

Government meteorologists expect further flooding and mudslides over the next ten days along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, especially in the provinces of Guizhou, Hunan, Sichuan and Guangdong.

Vice Premier Hui Liangyu called on local government officials to ensure the safety of major rivers and prepare for annual floods still to come.

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