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Wednesday, September 2, 1998 Published at 17:11 GMT 18:11 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

China cuts back to fight floods

Soldiers battle floods which have made millions homeless

China has announced a series of austerity measures for government departments in order to free funds for relief efforts to tackle the country's devastating floods.

The measures include a ban on the purchase of cars and mobile phones.

Restrictions will also be imposed on government conferences and overseas trips, and there are to be no more national meetings of government or communist party officials.

President Jiang Zemin recently cancelled trips to Japan and Russia citing the floods.

The flooding, along the Yangtze and in north-east China, has killed at least 3,000 people, made millions homeless and caused damage estimated at more than $20bn.

Although the flood waters are reported to be receding officials say they will remain at a high level for many weeks.

Despite officials' concerns that the floods might hinder the country's efforts to revive its flagging economic growth, Present Jiang has repeated his confidence that the 8% growth target will still be reached.

Officials have said that failure to achieve this target, could exacerbate unemployment and thereby threaten social stability.

Risk of disease growing

They have also warned that diseases could spread among refugees, many of whom are staying in crowded and unsanitary camps.

Typhoid has already broken out in the flood-hit Heilongjiang Province in north-eastern China.

The Xinhua news agency has reported a health ministry investigation as saying typhoid and dysentery accounted for much of a 50% increase in infectious diseases in Heilongjiang.

The report did not say how many typhoid cases there were in the province. But there were more than 80 reported in neighbouring Jilin province, which has been much less seriously affected by the floods.

Officials said there was mounting danger of major outbreaks of disease because of a combination of poor sanitation and overcrowding in flood refugee camps.

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