Flood washes through China town

July 12, 2010 9:08:06 PM PDT
A flash flood washed through a mountain town in southwest China early Tuesday, killing three people and leaving at least 50 missing, while crews raced to drain an engorged reservoir in another part of the country following heavy summer rains. Rescuers tried to locate the 56 missing people in Xiaohe town after the deluge swept through around 4 a.m., the state-run China News Agency said. The official Xinhua News Agency said the disaster in Xiaohe was a landslide, not a flood -- an account disputed by media reports and an official in Yunnan province where Xiaohe is located and which has been pounded by heavy rains for weeks.

Meanwhile, hundreds of workers and soldiers were scrambling to drain a reservoir threatening to burst and flood a city in far western China that is home to more than 200,000 people, state media said.

About 10,000 residents from the city of Golmud in the high-altitude region of Qinghai were evacuated to temporary camp sites as rescuers began to build a channel for draining the overflowing Wenquan reservoir, Xinhua reported.

If breached, the reservoir could damage the nearby Qinghai-Tibet railway, along with the city's power and water plants. Some places would be submerged in as much as 10 feet (3 meters) of water, Xinhua said.

The drainage channel, which will accompany two existing waterways, could be completed as early as Tuesday, the report said, citing vice governor Deng Bentai.

Soldiers transported sandbags, rocks, and dirt to prevent flooding and used bulldozers on Monday to dig a waterway for draining the reservoir, the Golmud city government website said, in an effort to protect the city's water source nearby.

Calls to the government office rang unanswered late Monday.

Water build-up from days of rain and snow melt filled up the reservoir, pushing it to almost four feet (more than one meter) above the warning level, the website said.

Three military cargo planes carrying thousands of lead nets, rubber rafts and life jackets, delivered emergency supplies to the scene, Xinhua said.

Rain is expected for Qinghai through Tuesday, along with parts of southern China that have been pelted with torrential storms since June, the China Meteorological Administration said.

More than 42,000 houses have collapsed and another 121,000 were damaged across nine provinces, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said. Hundreds of thousands of acres (hectares) of crops have been affected, with economic losses estimated at 8.9 billion yuan (US$1.3 billion).

More than 450 people throughout nine central and southern provinces have died since heavy rains began in June.


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