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Wednesday, 21 August, 2002, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
China flood threatens millions
Residents evacuating the flood zone
People arer being evacuated from key danger points
A state of emergency has been declared in central China's Hunan province, where the massive Dongting Lake is in danger of bursting its banks and engulfing millions of homes.

Enlarge image
Enlarge image

Areas at risk of flooding

Thousands of extra soldiers and workers have been drafted in to evacuate people from key danger points and reinforce the embankments around the lake.

The water is now more than two metres above the 32-metre (105 feet) danger level and is approaching the mark reached four years ago.

Then, the worst flood in decades killed more than 4,000 people.

The torrential rain of the last few weeks has abated.

However, vast amounts of water are continuing to flow down the Yangtze and other feeder rivers and the lake is expected to continue to rise.

'Worried'

"[Officials] are very worried about the situation," said Red Cross spokeswoman France Hurtubise.

Chinese rescuers at the scene of a landslide
More than 900 people have been killed so far
"The state of emergency means more workers will be mobilised, and some people will be moved from around the lake."

The BBC's Beijing correspondent, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, says that evacuating everyone is simply out of the question.

Dongting Lake is the country's second-largest freshwater lake and covers an area of more than 2,500 square kilometres.

It acts as a giant overflow for the flood-prone Yangtze.

Landslides and flash floods caused by torrential rain have already killed more than 100 people in southern China in the past two weeks alone, bringing this year's death toll close to 1,000.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Richard Forrest
"Evacuating everyone is out of the question"
See also:

21 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
21 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
19 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
18 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
16 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
12 Oct 01 | Science/Nature
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