, BEIJING, Jul 15 – China could be facing the worst floods in more than a decade if rains continue to drench the Yangtze river region, an official said on Thursday, as a major tropical storm threatens the southern coast.
The situation along the nation\’s longest waterway was at a "critical point", Wang Jingquan, head of the flood control office at the Yangtze River Water Resources Commission, told AFP.
"If heavy rain hits the upper reaches of the river, the Yangtze River basin could suffer from flooding similar to 1998," he said.
"And if you add the (imminent) landfall of Typhoon Conson, the situation along the Yangtze River basin is even less optimistic."
China experienced massive deadly floods in 1998 in parts of the Yangtze River basin, which acts as an unofficial dividing line between the north and south of the country.
The disaster killed 4,150 people and forced over 18 million more out of their homes, causing economic losses of 255 billion yuan ($38 billion), according to state media reports.
Wang warned that the nation\’s three worst floods in recent history – 1954, 1983 and 1998 – "all happened in July and August".
According to the civil affairs ministry, 118 people have died in floods that have hit the southern half of China since the beginning of July, and another 47 are still missing.
The downpours have also triggered deadly landslides that have swept entire villages away.
A series of such disasters hit parts of southwestern and central China earlier this week, killing at least 41 people, but it was unclear whether the victims were included in the ministry\’s overall death toll.
In the eastern province of Jiangxi, flash floods forced the evacuation of more than 30,000 people and water from three rewww.capitalfm.co.keirs spilled over into neighbouring areas, the official China Daily newspaper said.
China\’s national meteorological centre warned that Conson, which killed 23 people and left dozens missing in the Philippines, was due to hit the southern shores on Thursday.
It had initially been downgraded from a typhoon to a tropical storm, but had gathered strength again and was now classed as a severe tropical storm, the centre said.
Around 25,000 fishing boats have returned to port in the southern island of Hainan ahead of the storm, which is expected to bring winds that will trigger eight-metre (26-feet) waves, the official Xinhua news agency said.
President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao urged local authorities to "do their utmost to minimise flood-related losses," Xinhua said.