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250,000 evacuated after floods in China, N.Korea

Pakistanis should live away from flood areas: UN agency
Geneva (AFP) Aug 20, 2010 - The UN disaster prevention agency said Friday that communities should have been kept away from flood-exposed river banks in Pakistan, as it underlined the human hand in a string of catastrophes. "If people had not settled on the river banks, definitely the disaster would have been less, because that is the main cause of the disaster," said Salvano Briceno, director of the UN's International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. The ISDR also pointed to landslides in China, wildfires in Russia and drought in Niger this summer as examples of how communities and towns were increasingly placed or left in harm's way. "The vulnerability of human settlements is on the rise and is not yet being addressed by governments or communities," added Briceno. Briceno argued that while extreme weather or climate change and poverty added to the challenges, the biggest source of harm was people living in hazard-prone areas while too little was done to reduce the risks they face.

"It is clearly human responsibility in the making of the disaster, disasters are not natural," he added, urging local authorities, donors and aid agencies to bolster long-term steps to cut those risks with the recovery. Briceno acknowledged that all four countries were doing something but the pace of change was too slow and scattered worldwide. It was also hampered by poverty, war and displacement, notably in Pakistan, and a focus on the response to disasters rather than preventing their impact. The UN official noted that the South Asian country confronted annual monsoons rains, faced added melting from Himalayan glaciers with global warming and disruptive shifts in weather patterns. "There are clearly, from nature's perspective, some aggravating factors. But the reality is that those river banks should never have been (open) for people to settle on," Briceno said, calling it a known risk.

He nonetheless praised Pakistan's flood alert system and the response by the disaster management authority. "What is worrying is the long term effect, the displacement. By moving they might go to other risk areas," such as fragile slopes or quake zones, Briceno said. In Russia, Briceno blamed the lack of clearance of undergrowth in forests for amplifying wildfires that left up to 200,000 hectares (495,000 acres) of woodland and peat bog ablaze for more than a month, killing over 50 people and locking Moscow in a thick smog. More than 2,100 people were killed or missing and 12 million evacuated nationwide in China, following a spate of mudslides since July caused by torrential rains, inundating urban areas and burying parts of the northern city of Ankang. Briceno said "the magnitude of the challenge is huge," in China, even though local authorities were taking more steps than most countries to keep populations away from harm. Meanwhile, in impoverished Niger, where more than half the population faces famine, the impact of a drought that wiped out local harvests could have been tempered with a switch to less water hungry crops than traditional subsistence ones, the UN official claimed.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Aug 23, 2010
More than 250,000 people have been evacuated in northeast China following serious floods that have already left four dead and forced the relocation of thousands in neighbouring North Korea.

Heavy summer downpours have dangerously swollen the Yalu river, which forms the border between the two countries, and forecasters are warning of yet more torrential rain to come.

Chinese officials said Sunday that 253,000 people had been evacuated in Liaoning province in less than 24 hours due to the rains, as the nation struggles with its worst floods in a decade.

In Dandong city alone, which borders North Korea, more than 94,000 residents were evacuated and some power and transport links were cut off, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

A couple in their 70s and a mother and son died in Kuandian county, around 100 kilometres (60 miles) northeast of Dandong, when flash floods swept away their homes, Xinhua said, citing a local flood control official.

A 60-year-old man was also missing in Kuandian after his house collapsed in a rain-triggered landslide, but no new casualites were reported on Sunday.

At one stage on Saturday water levels at a Dandong monitoring station rose to 2.5 metres above the warning line, the second highest since records began in 1934, according to Xinhua.

Photos showed helicopters airlifting people from damaged rooftops as grey water swirled around buildings.

China's national meteorological centre warned Sunday that new downpours were expected in parts of Liaoning, including Dandong, for another 24 hours at least.

In neighbouring North Korea, more than 5,000 people have been moved to safety after parts of Sinuiju city and rural communities near the border were "completely inundated", the official Korean Central News Agency said.

Traffic in downtown Sinuiju was "paralysed" and flood victims were stranded on rooftops and on hills, prompting the North's leader Kim Jong-Il to order an emergency military rescue operation, it added.

The impoverished state has been hit by widespread flooding this summer, which has washed away homes, roads, railways and farmland, causing an unspecified number of deaths, according to state media reports from Pyongyang.

After decades of deforestation, North Korea is particularly vulnerable to flooding. In 2007, it reported at least 600 people dead or missing from devastating floods.

Nearly 3,900 Chinese have been killed or left missing this year in flood-related incidents, official figures show.

In the northwestern province of Gansu, a torrent of mud on August 7 slammed into homes in the remote town of Zhouqu, leaving at least 1,435 people dead and another 330 missing.

Authorities there have now banned local residents from continuing to search for their missing loved ones to prevent an outbreak of disease, Xinhua reported.

"The bodies have begun to rot after being buried for two weeks. Searching the debris risks an epidemic outbreak," a local government spokesman was quoted as saying.

In the southwestern province of Yunnan, rescuers are searching for 63 people who went missing in rain-triggered mudslides in a remote mountainous area. Twenty-nine people have been confirmed dead, Xinhua said in a separate report.

Heavy rains and bad road conditions there have hampered rescue work, and the chances of finding any survivors are slim, it added.

earlier related report
Four die, 64,000 evacuated in China-N.Korea border floods
Beijing (AFP) Aug 22, 2010 - Four people died and more than 64,000 were evacuated in China as heavy rain sparked serious floods along the North Korean border, with Pyongyang's state media warning of "devastating" consequences.

Downpours swelled the Yalu river which forms the border between the two countries to untenable levels, sending floodwaters into homes on both sides of the frontier, state media in both nations said.

In the northeast Chinese city of Dandong, more than 64,000 people were evacuated, the Xinhua state news agency reported Sunday. About 230 homes collapsed and some transport, power and communication links have been cut off.

A couple in their 70s and a mother and son died in Kuandian County, around 100 kilometres (60 miles) northeast of Dandong, when flash floods swept away their homes, Xinhua said, citing a local flood control official.

The transport ministry said in a statement that it had sent civilian helicopters to pluck a group of about 90 stranded residents from their flooded homes.

While an official at Dandong's flood control headquarters insisted that the situation was "not serious" in the city of 2.4 million, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Sinuiju across the border was "severely affected".

Floodwaters had inundated all houses, public buildings and farmland in three sectors of Sinuiju -- home to a North Korean military airbase -- and nearby rural communities, KCNA reported, without saying how many people were affected.

Provincial and local officials joined military personnel in rescue efforts, the North's media said.

In China, some roads were submerged along the Yalu and houses in Dandong were flooded with water that was knee-deep after heavy rain which began early Friday, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing the city government.

Workers were building a sand-bag flood barrier along the part of the river where the barriers had been breached, the agency reported.

Officials cited by Xinhua said only riverside areas, not downtown Dandong, had been affected.

Storms were expected to batter the area throughout Saturday.

Heavy summer rain across large parts of China has triggered the country's worst floods in a decade.

Nearly 3,900 people have been killed or left missing this year in China in flood-related incidents, including about 1,750 victims of devastating mudslides in a remote northwestern town on August 7-8, official figures show.

Chinese President Hu Jintao and other top Communist party leaders have made personal donations to help survivors of the disaster in Zhouqu, where at least 1,407 people were killed and more than 350 others are missing, Xinhua said.

Earlier this month, authorities suspended shipping and tourist traffic on the Yalu amid fears of flooding, as the waterway had seen more rain in a two-week period than at any comparable time in recorded history.

Thousands were evacuated at the time.

Across the border in North Korea, widespread flooding this summer has caused an unspecified number of fatalities, according to state media reports from Pyongyang.

In 2007, the impoverished communist state reported at least 600 people dead or missing from devastating floods.

Elsewhere in China, rescuers were still searching for 69 people who went missing in rain-triggered mudslides in a remote part of the southwestern province of Yunnan. Twenty-three people have been confirmed dead, Xinhua said.

"The rescuers are at risk of sinking into the mud any time," the agency quoted military officer Yang Pingang as saying in Puladi township, where more rain was also expected.

"The task is dangerous," said rescuer Cao Dashuai.

Hundreds of homeless villagers have been moved to two temporary shelters in the township, Xinhua said.

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Pakistan evacuates thousands in flooded south
Karachi (AFP) Aug 22, 2010
Pakistani authorities Sunday evacuated tens of thousands from flood-threatened areas in the south but insisted that the 2.5 million people of Hyderabad were safe from the nation's worst-ever inundation. The weak civilian government has faced an outpouring of fury over sluggish relief efforts, while officials are warning the country faces ruinous economic losses of up to 43 billion dollars, a ... read more

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