China Earthquake Region Braces For Rain Storms

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

CHENGDU, China (AP) -- Earthquake-ravaged sections of China's devastated Sichuan province braced Thursday for heavy rainstorms that could trigger new landslides, one day after officials reportedly finished evacuating 110,000 people from the area.

Rain began falling in the evening and thunderstorms were forecast for Friday through Sunday, according to the provincial weather bureau. This month marks the start of the annual rainy season, which routinely leads to flooding in rivers in provinces downstream.

Landslides are a particular concern because the May 12 earthquake caused steep hillsides to shear away and crash into river valleys below. Many slopes remain unstable and are at high risk of being washed away.

Authorities have evacuated 110,000 people since Sunday from mountain districts near the epicenter of the magnitude-7.9 quake, which killed nearly 70,000 people and left 5 million homeless, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The government has already ordered many survivors to move several times because of potential danger from damaged homes, aftershocks and possible flooding from "quake lakes" that formed when huge piles of debris blocked rivers.

Conditions in camps in the hard-hit county of Wenchuan were dismal due to overcrowding, said a county government official reached by telephone.

Refugees were living six to a tent, which have about 22 square feet of living space, said the official, who refused to give his name because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

"The situation is critical," he said.

Wenchuan remains largely inaccessible due to the destruction of roads by mud and rock slides.

Torrential rains have swept much of southern China in the past week, killing at least 63 people, swamping millions of acres of farmland and causing billions of dollars in damage. Low-lying parts of eastern Sichuan have been affected, but there have been no reports of flooding in the quake zone.

This week's heavy rains have submerged farms in the south, but the swollen rivers largely spared the tens of thousands of factories in the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong province - a huge producer of computers, shoes, toys and other products for the global market.

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