Archive for Monday, August 9, 2010

Flooding in China plunges millions into misery

August 9, 2010

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— Rescuers searched today for an estimated 1,300 people left missing after rubble-strewn floodwaters tore through a remote corner of northwestern China, just one of a series of flood disasters across Asia that have plunged millions into misery.

In neighboring Pakistan, an estimated 4 million people faced food shortages amid their country’s worst-ever flooding, while rescuers in Indian-controlled Kashmir raced to find 500 people still missing in flash floods that have killed 132. North Korea’s state media said high waters destroyed thousands of homes and damaged crops.

Sunday’s disaster in China’s Gansu province killed at least 127 people and covered entire villages in water, mud, and rocks.

Crews were working to restore power, water and communications in affected areas in the southern part of the province, and it was not known how many of the missing were in danger or simply out of contact.

Hoping to prevent further disasters, demolitions experts set off charges to clear debris blocking the Bailong River upstream from the ravaged town of Zhouqu, which remained largely submerged following Sunday’s disaster.

The blockage had formed a 2-mile-long artificial lake on the river that overflowed in the pre-dawn hours, sending deadly torrents crashing down onto the town. Houses were ripped from their foundations, apartment buildings shattered, and streets covered with a layer of mud and water more than three feet deep.

Authorities were rushing in water, tents, blankets and other emergency supplies and Premier Wen Jiabao flew to the area on Sunday to oversee relief efforts.

Wen visited hard-hit areas including the Sanyan valley, where a village of 300 households was completely buried in mudslides, the official Xinhua News Agency said. It said more than 680 villagers have been rescued, but gave no word on numbers believed to still be trapped.

Around China, the country’s worst flooding in a decade has killed more than 1,100 people this year, with more than 600 still missing. The floods have caused tens of billions of dollars in damage across 28 provinces and regions.

In Pakistan, more than 1,500 people have been killed and millions more left begging for help following the worst floods in the country’s history. Prices of fruit and vegetables skyrocketed Sunday, with more than 1 million acres of crops destroyed and at least 4 million people in need of food assistance in the coming months.

The latest deaths included at least 53 people killed on Saturday when landslides buried two villages in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan, senior government official Ali Mohamamd Sikandar said.

Pakistan has worked with international partners to rescue more than 100,000 people and provide food and shelter to thousands more. But the government has struggled to cope with the scale of a disaster that it estimates has affected 13 million people and could get worse as heavy rains lashed Pakistan again on Sunday.

Many flood victims have complained they have not received aid quickly enough or at all. The number of people needing assistance could increase as heavy rains continued to hit many areas of the country. The swollen Indus River overflowed near the city of Sukkur in southern Sindh province on Sunday, submerging the nearby village of Mor Khan Jatoi with chest-high water and destroying many of its 1,500 mud homes.

“We are sitting on the bank with nothing in our hands; no shelter, no food,” said a flood victim in Sukkur, Allah Bux. “We are helpless and in pain.”

In India, rescuers dug through crushed homes and piles of mud searching for 500 people still missing after flash floods sent massive mudslides down remote desert mountainsides in Indian-administered Kashmir, officials said.

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