732 People Dead or Missing in Floods in China
Byline: ROBERT J. SAIGET
BEIJING (AFP) Chinas President has ordered government bureaus to step up emergency flood control and relief efforts after torrential rains left 732 people dead or missing ahead of the traditional rainy season.
President Hu Jintao gave the order after the Civil Affairs Ministry announced 567 people had died and 165 were missing in flooding this year with economic losses estimated at 22.9 billion yuan ($ 2.76 billion).
"Faced with a serious fight against floods ... we must quickly step up efforts at organizing construction and inspections of major dikes, reservoirs, and reserve flood areas," Hu told a meeting on flood prevention and control, the Saturdays Peoples Daily newspaper reported.
"We must guarantee the safety of all major transport routes and midsize and big cities.
"The life of the people must be the No.1 priority, people in endangered areas must be immediately evacuated, and their living arrangements must be appropriately met."
Although relentless rains in southern parts of the country were expected to ease, water levels on the Pearl River remained at record highs as they surged toward the regional capital of Guangzhou, officials said.
Huang Huahua, governor of the booming industrial Guangdong province, urged the government to fasttrack relief efforts throughout the province, including the provincial capital, which was experiencing the worst rains in 90 years.
"July and August are the main flooding season in China, all major rivers and waterways may experience big floods at any time," Chen Jianlong, spokesman of the state anti-flood headquarters, said in a daily briefing.
"The damage caused by flooding along the Pearl River and the Min River is still serious.
"The number of collapsed homes is very big and damage to farm lands, water resources, roads, railways, and other infrastructure is very serious. …