China puts summer flood death toll at 1,138
BEIJING (Reuters) - Stronger relief efforts helped limit damage and loss of life from droughts and flooding in China this summer, but floods still killed more than 1,100 people, officials said on Tuesday.
Torrential rain has inundated large swathes of China's east, south and southwest since June despite a smaller number of typhoons and tropical storms so far this year, while a prolonged heatwave and drought have afflicted several eastern provinces.
"The climate has been abnormal and has caused serious flooding and drought in our country this year," Vice Minister of Water Resources E Jingping told a news conference.
The flood death toll of 1,138, last updated on Monday, was down about 50 percent from the average for the same period of previous years, E said.
Improved early warning and evacuation, stronger dykes and timely flood water diversion had reduced human losses and damage to property, Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei said.
But 310 million Chinese, mostly peasants in the vast and vulnerable countryside where harvests and houses were destroyed, have been affected by natural disasters so far this year.
The Huai River, China's third longest, suffered its worst flood since 1954 in July, displacing hundreds of thousands of wheat farmers for nearly a month.
The cities of Chongqing in the southwest and Jinan in the north were also hit by the most intensive downpours in history, causing dozens of deaths in street flooding and prompting Chinese media to question the government's response.
The flood season was not over yet and still posed a grave threat, while 37,000 of China's 85,000 dams had "ailments and dangers," Chen warned.
"The bulk of the ageing dams were built between the 1950s and 1970s, with the problems of inherent design defects and poor maintenance. The danger is outstanding," Chen said.
Separately, landslides, floods and lightning killed 17 people in the southwestern province of Sichuan in the past few days, Xinhua news agency said.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs has allocated 165 million yuan ($21.83 million) to five southern and eastern provinces to help the flood-hit residents, Xinhua said.