07/24/2007, 00.00
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Embankments on Huai River collapse, putting at risk hundreds of millions of people

The worst torrential rains in a hundred years have been pummelling China for weeks as unprecedented floods kill hundreds of people, causing damages in the billions of dollars. In the Chongqing area some people are blaming the Three Gorges Dam for the situation. In the meantime southern China is hit by a scorching heat wave.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Floods are into their third week. More than 500 people have been killed so far by the swollen Huai River. Millions of hectares of crops have been wiped out for billions of dollars in losses. Along the Huai itself hundreds of sections of embankments s have collapsed, putting millions of homes at risk. And there is no let up in sight; heavy rains are still in the forecast, especially in the upper reaches of the Huai and in the Yangtse Valley. Experts predict that whilst the rain season may soon end, the next few days should be most dangerous after the river has been at high flood levels for weeks.

The swollen Huai River has already displaced about half a million residents since the start of the month in the central province of Henan and the eastern provinces of Anhui and Jiangsu, many of whom are still unable to return home.

Tens of thousands of troops are on guard to battle any breaches along the Anhui section of the Huai. Still dozens of villages were deliberately inundated in Anhui to ease pressure at the height of the flood.

In south-western Chongqing, residents were coping with the aftermath of the worst rainstorm in more than a century. At least 42 people died in floods, landslides and other disasters.

Tens of thousands of rural residents whose houses were destroyed are now living in schools and tents and depended on army rations.

Some have started to blame the massive Three Gorges Dam for its uncertain meteorological and ecological implications.

Xinhua, China’s state news agency, has not excluded that possibility, but it did quote government experts as saying that there was no conclusive evidence to link either the drought or the flood to the dam on the Yangtze River.

In the northern province of Shanxi, 11 coal miners remained trapped after flash floods triggered by heavy rain submerged their pit on Sunday as rescuers were hampered by rocks and mud

Separately, days of scorching heat continue in five provinces in China's south and south-east on Tuesday, the National Meteorological Centre forecast.

Temperatures in the provinces of Zhejiang, Fujiang, Jiangxi, Guangdong and Hunan could reach 39 degrees Celsius (102 Fahrenheit), while that of Turpan in the far-west Xinjiang region could hit 43 degrees Celsius (109 F), the centre said.

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