Flood threat in China forces more than 250,000 from their homes; rain death toll rises in Nepal

Friday, August 23rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

YUEYANG, China (AP) _ More than 250,000 people have been evacuated from areas around a rain-swollen lake in central China, a government official said, as farmers patrolled atop dikes to check for leaks.

More than 1 million people have been mobilized to shore up dikes around Dongting Lake in densely populated Hunan province, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Rising waters already have swamped towns on the lakefront.

Since China's summer rainy season began in June, nearly 1,000 people have been reported killed by flooding and landslides with more than 200 of those deaths coming in Hunan.

In Nepal, landslides and accidents blamed on heavy rains have killed as many as 128 people since Wednesday. A bus plunged off a highway Thursday into the Trishuli River and 45 people were feared dead. In the country's west, a plane carrying tourists crashed outside the resort town of Pokhara, killing all 18 people aboard. And in the east, a landslide swept through the mountain village of Thapra and 65 people are feared dead.

Since June, more than 1,000 people have been killed by rains in Nepal, neighboring areas of India and low-lying Bangladesh. Across South Asia, some 25 million people have been forced from their homes in an enlarged version of what is an annual exodus to escape monsoon flooding.

Chinese Red Cross officials in Hunan are appealing to other regions of the country for tents, food and other supplies, said France Hurtubise, the Beijing-based regional spokeswoman for the International Federation of the Red Cross.

Beijing requires governments in flood-prone areas to keep emergency supplies on hand. But Hurtubise said Red Cross warehouses in Hunan are running low after efforts to help 100,000 people displaced by flooding in June.

``There is an emergency to replenish the supplies to help new victims,'' she said.

Elsewhere, the Yangtze River in central China has passed flood levels in some areas and a river has surged past the danger mark in Guangdong province in the southeast, which borders Hong Kong, according to state media and a local official.

Authorities have evacuated some 270,000 people threatened by flooding in Hunan, said an official of the provincial press office.

Most of the evacuees live around Dongting Lake, while others are from mountainous areas, said the official, who refused to give his name.

Flooding in Hunan has collapsed 27,000 houses and damaged 67,000 more, the Civil Affairs Ministry said in a statement issued in Beijing.

Around Dongting Lake, some 940,000 laborers, 15,000 soldiers and more than 100,000 members of the paramilitary militia are at work protecting flood dikes, Xinhua said. State-run television showed long lines of workers tossing sandbags on the embankments, while dump trucks unloaded large stones and chunks of concrete on the dikes.

Rains in the area stopped early Wednesday and authorities said they didn't expect any more for the next few days.

In the lakeside town of Zhongzhou, local farmers were posted in tents atop the earthen dikes, making periodic ``danger checks'' for leaks.

``These are our homes. We have to protect them,'' said Yang Yang, a farmer who was resting with four others under a tent in the midday heat.

Authorities are struggling to protect six cities in Hunan, including the provincial capital of Changsha, and dozens of villages that they say are threatened by rising rivers and lakes.

Adding to the flood danger, the Yangtze, which connects with Dongting Lake, has hit flood levels in several sections near the lake, the state newspaper China Daily said.

The report didn't give any details and officials wouldn't immediately confirm the account.

In Guangdong, the Xi River has risen past danger levels at several monitoring stations but there is no immediate threat of flooding, said a provincial water official.

Rains in Guangdong and the neighboring Guangxi region have stopped, so rivers are expected to subside, said the official, who refused to give her name.