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90 dead as China endures severe flooding, landslides

After months of punishing drought, China’s rainy season has returned with a vengeance, causing floods and landslides that as of Saturday were linked to 90 deaths.

An estimated 1.4 million people have been evacuated. On Saturday, China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs raised alert levels because of forecasts by the National Meteorological Center of torrential rains in southern and central China in the coming week.

The rains have inundated the provinces of Fujian, Zhejiang, Guangdong, Hunan, Sichuan, Jiangxi and Guizhou and the autonomous region of Guangxi. The latter two have been hit hard by a record drought.

Video on Chinese state television showed brown water gushing through city streets, stairways turned into waterfalls, residents seeking safety on rooftops and the staple of Chinese disaster coverage: troops rescuing children who had been trapped in a flooded school, this one in Fujian province.

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The Civil Affairs Ministry said 75,000 houses had collapsed and 80,000 had been damaged.

Floods are a rite of early summer in China, but the death toll from the rains that started only a week ago is already high and expected to get worse. In 2005 and 2008, more than 100 people were killed at the onset of the rainy season, and about 4,150 people were killed in summer flooding in 1998.

China’s meteorological center warned Saturday that rainfall in parts of the south was reported to be up to three times normal levels.

“There will be heavy rain over the next three days, and flood-control work will have enormous challenges,” the meteorological center said.

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The worst flooding was in Fujian, where 31 people were reported to have died in landslides. At least one bridge collapsed and two railroad lines were destroyed.

In Sichuan province, a landslide during a night of heavy rains buried 23 construction workers who were asleep in a shed on the site of a hydroelectric dam.

The Pearl River, which runs through southern China, was overflowing its banks, and 80 other rivers and their tributaries were reported to have risen to danger levels.

“It is the first time the water level of the country’s major rivers has gone past the warning line since the beginning of the year,” Zhang Zhitong, executive deputy director of flood control and drought relief, told the state news media.

barbara.demick@latimes.com

Nicole Liu and Tommy Yang of The Times’ Beijing Bureau contributed to this report.


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