Death toll from Hebei storms climbs to 114

Source:Xinhua Published: 2016/7/23 20:05:00

Torrential rain and floods have left 114 people dead and 111 others missing in north China's Hebei Province as of 6 p.m. on Saturday, according to the provincial civil affairs bureau. 

Local authorities have evacuated nearly 310,000 people. 

Flooding and rain-triggered landslides have caused the collapse of52,900 houses and damage to 155,000. Over 700,000 hectares of crops have also been destroyed, leading to direct economic losses of over 16 billion yuan (2.4 billion US dollars). 

The worst-hit Daxian Village of Xingtai City was almost empty after a flash flood swamped it early Wednesday morning. At least 8 villagers were killed and one missing. 

"I heard people yelling 'flood' at about 2:30 a.m.. I woke up my wife and children and rushed out of door immediately. In no time the water level was above my waist," said Zhang Erqiang, a local villager. 

"My wife and I panicked and we climbed to a tree, and stayed there for several hours until rescuers arrived in the morning," Zhang said. 

"But our daughter and son were washed away and their bodies were just found," he burst into tears. 

Only a dozen villagers stayed to watch over the village, while the rest residents had left to take shelter with their relatives elsewhere. 

Jingxing County, located in the west of the province, saw an average precipitation of 545.4 mm in the 19 hours between 1 p.m. on Tuesday and 8 a.m. on Wednesday, surpassing the amount received by the county in the whole of 2015. 

There have been power outages, disruptions to communication and other infrastructure, and road closures across Jingxing. 

In the village of Renma, villager Ren Jingmin was clearing his home. Ren's sofa, bed and other furniture were soaked. Cracks appeared on the wall. 

"Power went out before the village's loudspeaker finished broadcasting. And soon floods submerged my bed," another villager Zhang Yechao said. 

Qiu Wenshuang, deputy mayor of Xingtai, said on Saturday that at least 25 people were killed and another 13 missing in the city, adding rescue operations and disaster relief have been initiated immediately after the flood. 

Nearly 30 speedboats and 300 soldiers were dispatched to repair breached levee and transfer trapped residents, and another 1,200 people joined the rescue operation, according to Qiu. 

The local government has also sent 15 working teams into 12 flooded villages to investigate the situation, comfort villagers and carry out epidemic prevention. 

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang presided over a national meeting on flood control and disaster relief in Beijing on Saturday, urging governments at all levels to put safety of the people first and strengthen flood control measures. 

The provincial government allocated 105 million yuan (15.7 million US dollars) of emergency funds for the worst-hit places to help with relief work.

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