Floods Create Misery In Asia


Floods and landslides across Asia plunged millions into misery Sunday as rubble-strewn waters killed at least 127 in northwestern China and 4 million Pakistanis faced food shortages amid their country’s worst-ever flooding.

In Indian-controlled Kashmir, rescuers raced to find 500 people still missing in flash floods that have already killed 132, while North Korea’s state media said high waters had destroyed thousands of homes and damaged crops.

Terrified residents fled to high ground or upper stories of apartment buildings in China’s Gansu province after a debris-blocked river overflowed during the night, smashing buildings and overturning cars.

The official Xinhua News Agency said Sunday that authorities were seeking to locate an estimated 1,300 people still missing in the latest deluge in a summer that has seen China’s worst seasonal flooding in a decade. That figure was down from 2,000 earlier in the day.

Worst hit was the county seat of Zhouqu in the province’s Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, where houses buckled and streets were filled with more than a yard (meter) of mud and water.

The landslides struck after heavy rains lashed China late Saturday, causing the Bailong River to burst its banks, Xinhua quoted the head of Zhouqu county, Diemujiangteng, as saying. Around China, the country’s worst flooding in a decade has killed more than 1,100 people this year, with more than 600 still missing. The floods have caused tens of billions of dollars in damage across 28 provinces and regions.

In Pakistan, more than 1,500 people have been killed and millions more left begging for help following the worst floods in the country’s history. Prices of fruit and vegetable skyrocketed Sunday, with more than 1 million acres (405,000 hectares) of crops destroyed and at least 4 million people in need of food assistance in the coming months.

At least 1.4 million acres (570,000 hectares) of crops were destroyed in the central province. The U.N. special envoy for the disaster, Jean-Maurice Ripert, said billions of dollars would be needed to help Pakistan recover, but funds could be difficult to procure amid the global financial crisis.

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In neighboring India, rescuers dug through crushed homes and piles of mud searching for 500 people still missing after flash floods sent massive mudslides down remote desert mountainsides in Indian-administered Kashmir, officials said. The death toll rose to 132 with about 500 others injured.

The dead included at least five foreign tourists whose nationalities were not immediately known.

Thousands of army, police and paramilitary soldiers were also clearing roads to reach isolated villages in the Ladakh region cut off by Friday’s powerful thunderstorms, state police Chief Kuldeep Khoda said.

About 2,000 foreign tourists were in the area, a popular destination for adventure sports enthusiasts, when the storm hit, burying homes and toppling power and telecommunication towers.

North Korea’s state media said 36,700 acres (14,850 hectares) of farmland were submerged and 5,500 homes destroyed or flooded after recent heavy rains.

However, South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said the damage did not appear to be serious compared to previous years. Flooding in North Korea in 2007 killed about 600 people, left another 100,000 homeless, and destroyed more than 11 percent of the country’s crops.

Floods this year in the neighboring Chinese province of Jilin have left 85 people dead and caused an estimated 45 billion yuan ($6.6 billion) in economic losses.

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