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Freak storms pound China; more to come

05-17-2010 14:14 BJT

BEIJING, May 17 -- Continuing rainfall and storms are due to pound parts of the country's south in the coming three days, meteorologists warned Sunday, amid a rising death roll that has totaled at least 86 in less than two weeks.

Villagers in Cuihua, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, stand in front of their damaged homes Sunday after a tornado and hailstorm struck the area Saturday, leaving seven people dead and 98 injured. (Xinhua)
Villagers in Cuihua, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, stand in front of 
their damaged homes Sunday after a tornado and hailstorm struck the area Saturday, 
leaving seven people dead and 98 injured. (Xinhua)

Heavy rains and hail are expected in Hubei and Guizhou provinces and Chongqing Munici-pality, the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) said.

Meteorologists cautioned that continuing rainfall until Wednesday would hamper ongoing relief efforts and cause more economic losses. The affected regions have been urged to prepare for more floods, landslides, lightning, strong winds and hail.

A total of 86 people were killed and 16 were missing as of Wednesday in 10 provinces and cities, including Guangdong, Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan and Guizhou, the Ministry of Water Resources said Saturday, adding that rainstorms in southern China had forced the relocation of 275,000 people, as direct economic losses stood at 5.9 billion yuan ($864 million).

Casualties, however, seemed to be on the rise as different localities kept refreshing their calcu-lations. A fisherman in Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, was swept away by rain-triggered floods Friday, the regional rescue headquarters said. A day earlier, rainstorms triggered mud-rock flows in Guilin city, killing 3 people.

Also on Thursday, three primary school students in Xiangtan city in Hunan Province fell into a canal, with one rescued and two missing.

Among the 10 provinces and cities, Chongqing suffered the highest death toll, with 31 people killed by strong winds and heavy rainstorms early this month. Most of the deaths were caused by collapsed houses. Authorities in Chongqing earmarked 12 million yuan ($1.7 million) in relief funds and dispatched relief materials to aid the rescue work.

Three heavy rainstorms pelted South China from May 5 to Saturday. Some places saw 30 percent more rainfall than in previous years, with rainfall in some areas even double the average.

Yang Guiming, a chief forecaster with the CMA, said the main reason for the rainstorms is the contact of an active cold front from areas around Lake Baikal with wet air from tropical oceans.

However, he said this year's rainy season is not extreme compared with past years.

"Each May could see more rainfall in South China. In this sense, this year is not particularly odd," he said.

Furthermore, a cold front moving eastward is set to bring temperature drops and strong winds to Northwest China during the coming three days.

The temperature in Gansu Province and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region will fall by 4 to 8 C, while the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Inner Mongolia will be affected by dust storms.

The CMA said last week that weather conditions in the country have been abnormal, and it is possible that China will experience extreme weather this year.

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