China on high alert; death toll in rains up to 237, 93 missing

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Beijing, July 14: A high alert was sounded in China today for more rains and flood after 21 people died taking the death toll to 237 as super Typhoon Nepartak left the country's east coast troubled with largescale devastation and chaos.

Thirteen others remained missing after tropical storm hit the country. With that the total of missing people in the last few weeks jumped to 93, state-run a news agency reported. China said it will "prepare for the worst and strive for the best" after more than 200 people died in floods, it said.

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"Although the water level in middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River are slowly dropping, most are still above warning levels," Zhang Jiatuan, a spokesperson for the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, said.

He said the situation was "still quite critical" as central and eastern parts of China are expected to see a fresh round of heavy rain over the days to come. Over 1,508 counties across 28 provinces have reported floods, with 237 fatalities and 93 missing as of yesterday.

Some 147,200 houses have been destroyed, Zhang said, adding over 5.46 million hectares of farmland was inundated. Direct economic losses, have been estimated at USD 22 billion, he said.

The central and southeastern parts of China have been worse hit by floods. As the rainy season continues "the possibility of flooding in northern rivers can not be ruled out," Zhang said.

Safeguarding dikes, especially old and ill-maintained ones, is a "major yet difficult" task, he added. Huang Xianlong, another official with the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, echoed Zhang and said at one time there were over 800,000 people working on the dikes.

Meanwhile, authorities will closely monitor potential typhoons, and address hazards. Regarding the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydropower project built a decade ago to reduce the potential for floods, Huang dismissed some misleading reports alleging it to be useless or counterproductive.

"In fact, the more critical the situation is, the more obvious and positive the dam exerts its role," he said.

PTI 

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