Southwest China Scrambles to Prevent Disease as Floods Move on


2004.09.09
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HONG KONG — ; Authorities in southwest China were marshalling scant resources Wednesday to prevent disease in the wake of devastating floods, which killed 172 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

"The work of recovery is now under way, but there is a severe shortage of medical supplies, particularly disinfectants, for disease prevention work," an official at the Kaixian county in the municipality of Chongqing told RFA.

"We've already organized equipment and medical teams to go out to all the affected areas and start the work of disease prevention," the official said. Kaixian county was among the worst-hit areas as a massive flood crest surged down the Yangtze, passing the Three Gorges dam on Tuesday.

"The drinking water supply is not yet back to normal," an official at the flood prevention center in Dazhou city, another badly hit area, told RFA's Mandarin service.

"There is water now in low-lying areas but not on the higher ground... The roads are not yet entirely passable but you can get through on the major roads now," the official said.

More than 50 villages were flooded in Kaixian in the 22-hour period following the Sept. 4 flood peak. Twelve people were killed, and a further 18 were still missing in that area alone, he said.

Most of the deaths in Sichuan and Chongqing to the east were caused by landslides, fast-moving mud-and-rock flows, and flash floods sweeping through mountain valleys from Thursday to Monday, official media reported.

The authorities in the central province of Hubei were on flood alert Wednesday as the flood crest swept towards the city of Wuhan, where it is expected on Sept. 11.

Officials put the massive Three Gorges hydroelectric dam project on alert as flood crests surged along the swollen Yangtze River on Tuesday.

They also suspended river traffic through the dam's locks. The dam was expecting the largest flood peak in more than 100 years after continuous rain in the river's upper reaches.

The Three Gorges Dam, planned for decades and touted as a means of staunching regular flooding by the Yangtze, forced 1.3 million people to relocate and stirred fierce international debate for years.

Weather services are still predicting more major storms in the coming days, Xinhua said. More than 5,000 soldiers were taking part in the emergency efforts, and one 19-year-old recruit drowned while helping with evacuations, Xinhua said.

Summer rains wreak havoc across the flood-prone Yangtze practically every year, with torrents rushing down denuded slopes to menace low-lying plains in central China.

Flooding losses were initially estimated at 3.9 billion yuan (U.S. $470 million), Xinhua said, with the greatest damage caused by landslides and flash floods sweeping through mountain valleys.

In some areas the flood water has been deep enough to submerge four-storey buildings. Rescue workers are said to be delivering supplies of food and medicine by boat.

On the Web

History repeats: The 1998 Yangtze floods on DisasterRelief.org

Eagle eye: U.S. government satellite images of the Yangtze floodplain

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