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Flooding in China traps thousands of people
BEIJING -- Floods caused by heavy rains in northeastern China stranded tens of thousands of residents without power Wednesday, as the worst flooding in more than a decade continued to besiege many areas of the country.
Floods this year have killed at least 928 people with 477 missing and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage, the State Flood Control and Drought Prevention office reported. More heavy rains were expected for the southeast, southwest and northeast parts of the country through today.
About 30,000 residents in Kouqian town were trapped in their homes after torrential rains drenched the northeastern province of Jilin on Wednesday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Water began flooding the town after the nearby Xingshan Reservoir and the Wende and Songhua rivers overflowed and rescue crews were delivering supplies by boat and moving people to higher ground, state television reported.
Flooding has hit areas all over China. Thousands of workers sandbagged riverbanks and checked reservoirs in preparation for potential floods expected to flow from the swollen Yangtze and Han rivers, an official with the Yangtze Water Resources Commission said Wednesday. He gave only his surname, Zhang, as is common with Chinese officials.
"Right now, the Han river in Hubei province is on the verge breaching warning levels," Zhang said.
The Han is expected to rise this week to its highest level in two decades, Xinhua reported. The flood threat was greater than usual because the Yangtze, into which the Han flows, was also reaching peak levels, it said.
Workers were prepared to blast holes in the Han embankment to divert floodwaters into a low-lying area of farms and fish ponds, from which more than 5,000 people were evacuated, Xinhua said.
15 percent more rain
Although China experiences heavy rains every summer, flooding this year is the worst in more than a decade because the flood-prone Yangtze River Basin has seen 15 percent more rain than in an average year, Duan Yihong, director of the National Meteorological Center, said in a transcript of an interview Wednesday posted on the Xinhua website.
"Rains should begin to slow down in August, but it is hard to predict now what exactly will happen, said Duan. "We have to be vigilant and closely monitor the weather ... do a better job of forecasting."
Thousands of rescuers in central China's Henan province searched for survivors Wednesday after a bridge collapsed from heaving flooding in the Yi River over the weekend, killing 37 people with 29 missing, Xinhua reported.
Floods have also put China's massive Three Gorges Dam to the test. On Wednesday morning, the dam's water flow reached 1.96 million cubic feet per second, the biggest peak flow this year, with the water level reaching 518 feet, Xinhua said, about 10 percent less than the dam's maximum capacity.
Chinese officials have for years boasted the dam, the world's largest hydroelectric project, would end centuries of devastating floods along the Yangtze.
Around China, a total of 875,000 homes have been destroyed, 9.61 million people evacuated, and 22 million acres of crops ruined in this year's flooding, according to the state flood control office.
China's worst flooding in recent years occurred in 1998, when 4,150 people were killed, most along the Yangtze.