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Death Toll Rises in East China Floods

July 7, 1992

BEIJING (AP) _ Floods killed 158 more people in southeastern China, official reports said Tuesday as continuing heavy rains raised fears of a repeat of last year’s devastation.

The nationwide death toll from flooding so far this year has topped 500.

Floods have been reported in six provinces, destroying homes and crops and cutting transportation links. Some of the areas hit also were flooded last year, when more than 3,000 people were killed.

In the latest flooding:

-In coastal Fujian province, 113 people were killed and 300 were missing in one area, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said. It said more than 7,000 houses collapsed and communications with the area were cut off.

-In neighboring Zhejiang province, 18 more deaths were reported, the newspaper China Daily said. Eight deaths already had been reported there Monday. More than 13,000 houses collapsed. Most farmers live in mud-brick homes.

-In inland Hunan, landslides and collapsing buildings caused by heavy rains killed 27 people between Thursday and Monday, the Worker’s Daily reported.

Heavy rains also were reported in Guizhou, Guangxi and Jiangxi provinces. Xinhua said Monday that 27 people were killed in Jiangxi, which is between Fujian and Hunan.

The Yangtze River near major cities such as Wuhan has been dangerously high, Xinhua said.

Soldiers were parachuting food into one area of Zhejiang that was cut off by the flood waters, the China Daily said.

The official media reports have been sketchy, as is usual in China in reports on disasters. China’s Communist rulers fear detailed reports of suffering would reflect badly on the government’s flood-prevention measures and rescue efforts.

Some critics have said flooding has gotten worse in recent years in part because logging along the Yangtze’s upper reaches has increased soil erosion, leading to heavier rain runoff. Others have blamed laxness in maintaining waterworks designed to ease flood pressure on key rivers and lakes.

Several million people were left homeless last summer when floods devastated much of the lower Yangtze River Valley, and most spent months living in makeshift tents and huts on tiny islands of high land. The official media quoted them only as expressing gratitude for government food aid.

The 1991 floods caused more than $15 billion in direct economic losses, according to government figures. Not only farmland but many factories and shops were flooded, and bridges and roads were washed away.

Crops also suffered, although the government later reported a 435 million- ton grain harvest nationwide, just slightly less than 1990′s record harvest.

Eastern and southern China receive heavy rains every year in the late spring and summer.

Update hourly