06/10/2006, 00.00
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93 killed, 11 missing in bad weather

Torrential rains have forced around 560,000 people to evacuate. Floods and landslides in the southern part of the country are in stark contrast to drought in the north.

Beijing (AsiaNews/SCMP) – Ninety-three people have been killed and 11 people are missing in flooding in southern China caused by two weeks of torrential rain. Around 560,000 people have been forced to evacuate and to seek refuge in higher terrain.

Xinhua reported that the southern province of Guangxi was hardest hit: in Wuzhou, there were 1,379 landslides and 1,195 buildings collapsed in two days. Twelve people died here.

Quoting China's ministry for the people's affairs, the China Daily government newspaper said: "Nearly 12 million people in nine provinces, regions and communes have been affected by the bad weather. The government is evaluating measures to ensure these people suffer the least damage possible."

Meanwhile, a wave of drought has afflicted northern provinces where, according to Xinhua, more than seven million people face severe water shortages. This is a direct result of the same crisis causing the bad weather. A year ago, a long period of drought significantly lowered levels of main supply basins in the north.

"The lack of water did not have catastrophic effects on reserves available in the north," said Wang Shucheng, Chinese minister for hydraulic resources. But the country "should be ready to tackle a situation destined to be even worse next year."

In the south too, the situation has assumed emergency proportions because of water crisis that has been steadily deteriorating since 1951. Zhu Zhaohua, deputy director of the Office of Water Resources in Guangdong, said only 40% of water supplies used this year had been replaced by fresh intake. 

In 2004, 23.4 million people in China had to face periods of drinking water shortages and 16 million hectares of crops were wasted because of drought; the lack of water also damaged 23 million tons of wheat.

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