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Floods, landslides torment millions in Asia

By Christopher Bodeen
Associated Press / August 9, 2010

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BEIJING — Floods and landslides across Asia plunged millions into misery yesterday 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 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.

In Pakistan, more than 1,500 people have been killed and millions more left begging for help after the worst floods in the country’s history. Prices of fruits and vegetables skyrocketed yesterday, with more than 1 million acres of crops destroyed.

The latest Pakistani deaths included at least 53 people killed Saturday when landslides buried two villages in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan, Ali Mohamamd Sikandar, a senior government official, said.

In China’s Gansu Province, terrified residents fled to high ground or upper stories of apartment buildings after the debris-blocked Bailong River overflowed late Saturday, smashing buildings and overturning cars.

The official Xinhua News Agency said yesterday that authorities were seeking to locate an estimated 1,300 people missing in the latest deluge in a summer that has seen China’s worst seasonal flooding in a decade.

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 of mud and water.

The landslides struck after heavy rains lashed China late Saturday, causing the Bailong River to burst its banks, Xinhua reported, citing Zhouqu county officials.

The devastation was worsened by flotsam that blocked the river upstream, creating a 2-mile-long lake that overflowed and sent waves of mud, rocks, and water crashing down on the town, ripping houses from their foundations and tearing six-story apartment buildings in half.

Explosives experts were flying to the scene by helicopter to demolish the blockage and safely release potential flood waters ahead of more rain forecast through Wednesday.

China Central Television said 45,000 people had been evacuated, but the region’s remote, mountainous location was hampering the emergency response. Narrow roads prevented the movement of heavy equipment, forcing rescuers to rely on shovels, picks, and buckets.

Firefighters rescued 28 people yesterday, and the government had allocated $73 million for recovery efforts, Xinhua said.

China’s worst flooding in a decade has killed some 1,100 people this year, with more than 600 missing. The floods have caused tens of billions of dollars in damage across 28 provinces and regions.

At least 1.4 million acres of crops were destroyed in the central Pakistani province of Punjab, the country’s breadbasket, the United Nations reported.

Many more crops were devastated in the northwest, where destruction from the floods has been most severe and many residents are still trying to recover from intense battles between the Taliban and the army during the last year.

The swollen Indus River overflowed near the city of Sukkur in southern Sindh Province yesterday, submerging the nearby village of Mor Khan Jatoi with chest-high water and destroying many of its 1,500 mud homes.

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