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Floods Leave 77,000 Chinese Homeless

September 3, 1999

BEIJING (AP) _ Floods in central China’s Hunan province have destroyed more than 20,000 homes, leaving thousands of poor people living in tents near river embankments, a Red Cross official said Friday.

Relief workers were concentrating on providing medical care, sanitation, water and other necessities to 77,000 people left homeless when an embankment along the Yangtze River in Minzhu county, 800 miles south of Beijing, gave way in July, Solveig Olafsdottir of the Red Cross said.

Although some of the homeless have gone to live with relatives, many have been forced to live in tents on higher ground, he said.

Floods struck Minzhu in 1995, 1996 and 1998, destroying crops and leaving residents reliant on government loans to provide for their families. But this is the first year homes have been completely destroyed, she said.

``This year’s floods were the worst so far,″ she said. ``They are pretty desperate.″

Flood waters along the Yangtze have begun to recede with autumn’s approach. But the ground is saturated and people’s lives won’t improve significantly before early November, Olafsdottir said.

She said authorities in Minzhu were considering permanently resettling residents on higher ground to prevent future disasters.

More than 800 people have been killed nationwide in China’s summer flooding this year and another 5.5 million have been evacuated. Although the damage has not been as extensive as last year’s flooding _ when 4,100 people died and millions were left homeless _ there are pockets of severe devastation.

The southern Hunan city of Chenzhou was struggling to recover after a flash flood Aug. 13 swept away 722 houses and damaged bridges, hospitals and other structures, Olafsdottir said.

Local authorities said 70 people died, 82 were seriously injured and more than 17,750 were left destitute in Chenzhou, she said.

The international Red Cross appealed last week for $7 million to help flood victims in China. Millions of people in Hunan and Hubei, Anhui and Jiangxi provinces remain in dire need of food, clean water and sanitation assistance.

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