China on high alert as floods kill 237
Updated: 2016-07-15 09:49
BEIJING/HEFEI - China said Thursday it will "prepare for the worst and strive for the best" after more than 200 people died following floods across the country.
"Although the water levels in middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River are slowly dropping, most are still above warning levels," Zhang Jiatuan, a spokesperson for the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, told reporters.
He said the situation was "still quite critical" as central and eastern parts of China are expected to see a fresh round of heavy rain over the days to come.
Over 1,508 counties across 28 provinces have reported floods, with 237 fatalities and 93 missing as of Wednesday.
Some 147,200 houses have been destroyed, Zhang said, adding that over 5.46 million hectares of farmland had been inundated.
Direct economic losses, he said, were at 147 billion yuan (22 billion U.S. dollars).
So far, the central and southeastern parts of China have been worse hit by floods. As the rainy season continues, "the possibility of flooding in northern rivers can not be ruled out," Zhang said.
Safeguarding dikes, especially old and ill-maintained ones, is a "major yet difficult" task in the near future, he added.
Huang Xianlong, another official with the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, echoed Zhang's remarks and said there was one time that over 800,000 people were working on the dikes.
The Eastern Theater Command of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) sent another 600 men to reinforce rescue and relief efforts in the city of Anqing, Anhui Province on Thursday.
The theater command has so far sent more than 23,000 troops to Anhui, Jiangxi, Fujian and Jiangsu, and some of whom have been fighting floods for two weeks.
The military authority asked all troops to be ready for a "protracted war."
Meanwhile, authorities will closely monitor potential typhoons, and address hazards.
Typhoon Nepartak, the first to hit this year, made landfall in Fujian Province on July 9, claiming 69 lives and leaving six others missing as of 6:00 p.m. Thursday, local authorities said.
Regarding the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydropower project built a decade ago to reduce the potential for floods, Huang dismissed some misleading reports alleging it to be useless or counterproductive.
"In fact, the more critical the situation is, the more obvious and positive the dam exerts its role," he said.
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