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Floods Kill Hundreds in China - 2003-07-12

This summer's floods have killed 569 people in China, and have forced another 630,000 flee their homes in recent days. Worried officials say the flood season has at least another month to go.

The Chinese media report rising floodwaters are forcing the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people from the Huai River Valley in eastern China.

In this latest evacuation, 16,000 soldiers are using 1,000 trucks and scores of boats to help people escape from the affected area.

In some cases, residents had to flee because flood control dykes had been blown up, allowing water to spread into lightly populated areas in the hope of sparing large cities and rail lines downstream.

The Huai River runs through several central and eastern provinces, including Henan, Anhui, Jiangsu and Shandong. The river valley is home to 150 million people and is one of China's major grain producing areas.

The head of the relief division of China's Red Cross, Yang Xu Sheng, says his organization is sending thousands of blankets and tents and other supplies to help local governments cope with the floods. Reports say China has allocated millions of dollars in relief funds, but has suffered more than $4 billion in flood damage so far.

Overall, according to a report issued Friday, 2.3 million people have been evacuated from disaster areas around the country. Rains that have induced the floods since mid May have already toppled more than 505,000 homes and damaged another 1.3 million.

Mr. Yang of the Red Cross says the floods have badly hurt crops in some areas and the rains are not likely to end anytime soon.

"The normal raining pattern when talking about the Yangtse River and the Huai River, is from late June to late August, so there is still at least one month to go to, the main peak flood season," he said.

Floods strike parts of China nearly every year. China's official news agency says that so far, this year's overall flood situation is no worse than average. In some places along the Huai, however, water levels are the highest since the disastrous years of 1991 and 1998, when floods and mudslides killed thousands.

Weather forecasters say the current rainstorm is expected to remain in the affected area until at least Monday.