09/07/2004, 00.00
CHINA
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Floods cause more than 100 dead in south-west China

Beijing (AsiaNews/AFP) – Five days of torrential rains have killed 105 people in south-west China with another 83 missing and hundreds more injured. According to local Disaster Relief Bureaus, "the hardest hit areas are in Sichuan and Chongqing with respectively 72 and 33 dead".

Officials from the Sichuan Flood Prevention Command Headquarters said the victims mostly drowned or were buried in landslides. In Chongqing alone 82,000 people were forced to leave their homes. Many families had to find shelter in hotels or hostels after their homes were damaged.

According to Xinhua news agency, most shops in the city of Dazhou were still closed. Official sources report that 30,000 victims needed government assistance to find accommodation. The few restaurants still open for business are thronged with people queuing up for food. "We have no fresh water [. . .]. All mineral water in the shops was sold out. We need food and water for thousands of people," Dazhou deputy mayor Zhang Zhike said.

The authorities have put the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River on flood alert. High water levels have brought navigation on the river to a standstill.

More than 5,000 soldiers and sailors have been sent to the affected areas to work in rescue operations; however, unremitting rains have made their task difficult. Last night army helicopters were unable to land in Dazhou.

So far more than 6 million people have been affected by some of China's worst floods in the last 100 years. The central government allocated 40 million yuans (almost €4 million or US$ 5 million) for emergency aid to the victims.

Weather reports remain somewhat gloomy. Heavy rains should persist throughout the day.

Setting aside hostilities between Beijing and Taipei, Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation sent a letter yesterday to the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait expressing its "condolences to relatives of flood victims" and "solidarity to all those suffering from the floods." (MA)

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