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Saturday, July 24, 1999 Published at 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Thousands evacuated in China

At least 130,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in central China to escape flood waters from the Yangtze river.

The official Xinhua news agency said the people were moved from their homes when rising water burst through a dyke in a farming region near Yiyang, in the central province of Hunan.

As soldiers struggled to bring the breach under control, Xinhua said floods had killed eight people in the south-western province of Sichuan and caused losses worth more than Yuan 50m ($6m).

Power supplies and telephone lines were cut, while railway tracks were damaged in Xuanhan county, according to the agency.

"The county, with a population of 1.17 million, is economically backward and can ill afford the flood destruction," Xinhua said.

'Record' water levels

In Yiyang, many buildings were destroyed by Friday's torrent, which flooded more than 3,330 hectares (8,225 acres) of land.

[ image: The authorities have been trying to hold back the flood waters]
The authorities have been trying to hold back the flood waters
Some 3,000 soldiers rushed to repair the dyke, Xinhua said. But other reports said the dyke was abandoned after officials were unable to repair it.

The AFP news agency reported a city spokesman as saying that water levels at Yiyang measured more than 36 metres (119 feet) on Saturday, "a little higher" than the record set during disastrous flooding in 1998.

Prime Minister Zhu Rongji was expected to visit the city on Saturday to inspect the damage incurred during China's annual flooding season, which began in May.

Death toll

Floods in the Yangtze river valley have killed more than 240 people since the end of June.

Flooding has affected some 3.5 million hectares (8.6 million acres) of farmland and destroyed 660,000 hectares of crops across China this year, according to officials.

Hunan and the neighbouring provinces of Hubei and Anhui declared a flood alert on Wednesday as water levels along the country's longest river rose above the danger mark.

Violent rainstorms have also caused severe flooding in Sichuan, Zhejiang and Jiangxi provinces.

The entire Yangtze basin - home to some 400 million people - was hit by the worst floods in decades last summer. More than 4,000 people perished in the flooding, which caused damage worth Yuan 200bn ($25bn).

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