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Millions affected by China flooding
Authorities predict downpours in the country's south after heavy rains wreak havoc in eastern provinces.
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2011 08:14
The flooding has caused more than $700m worth of damage, with the Zhejiang province hit especially hard [Reuters]

More than five million people are believed to have been affected by severe floods in eastern China, amid predictions of further heavy rains in the coming days.

The Chinese government has raised its disaster alert to the highest level as the flooding has caused more than $700m worth of damage.

"Severe floods triggered by heavy rains will continue to threaten parts of southern China," Chen Lei, minister of water resources, said on Monday.

"There is an increasing possibility that downpours, with enhanced frequency and intensity, will continue to lash regions in the south," he said in a speech posted on his ministry's website.

Heavy rains hit Zhejiang province over the weekend and the level of a river that passes through Lanxi city has risen sharply, Zhao Fayuan, deputy director of the flood control headquarters, said.

The level of Lanjiang river has now hit 34 metres, the highest since 1966, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

Several sections of the dykes in Lanxi city are barely holding, Zhao said. More than 20,000 people could be affected if the dykes are breached, he said.

Torrential rains have left huge areas of Hubei and Zhejiang provinces under water, with more than one million acres (432,200 hectares) of farmland inundated, the Xinhua said.

More than 7,000 homes collapsed or were otherwise damaged and almost 1,000 businesses have been forced to suspend operations.

Rising death toll

Flooding in eastern and southern China this month has left more than 170 people dead or missing.

Al Jazeera's Andrew Thomas, reporting from Beijing, said the death toll was rising into hundreds.

Farmers quoted by Xinhua said the flooding was the worst in 20 years, reducing vegetable output by 20 per cent and also causing shortages of fruits and grains.

Prices for green vegetables were up drastically, Xinhua said, adding to an inflation rate of 5.5 per cent, a three-year high.

"The economic cost of this is huge, as crops are being absolutely destroyed in central, southern, and particularly eastern China," our correspondent said.

"Some food prices have jumped more than 20 per cent. In one province alone they are estimating the economic loss at more than three quarters of a billion dollars."

Torrential downpours across large swathes of the country last year triggered the nation's worst floods in a decade, leaving more than 4,300 people dead or missing.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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