CHINA'S DEATH TOLL FROM STORM HITS 482
By AUDRA ANG, Associated Press Writer Fri Jul 21, 3:01 PM ET
BEIJING - China's
death toll from tropical storm Bilis more than doubled to 482 after a hard-hit inland province reported a sharp rise in fatalities,
state media said Friday.
Authorities in Hunan province said 346 people died in floods triggered by the storm,
while 89 others were missing, the Xinhua News Agency said. The province previously reported 92 deaths.
Bilis slammed into China's southeastern coast on July 14 and churned inland,
triggering flooding and landslides. Nearly 3 million people were forced to flee their homes, the government said.
The higher death toll in
Hunan included 197 victims in the village
of Zixing, where a state television reporter found the local government
had underreported the number of deaths, Xinhua said.
Luo Xiwu, a Communist Party
official from Zixing, was quoted by Xinhua as saying the disaster caused a "breakdown of communication and traffic systems,"
which made it hard for authorities to collect information on deaths and damage.
"The officials did not shift
their work focus from rescue and relief to death toll head count and damage investigation until rainstorms stopped and floods
receded," Luo said.
Chinese officials frequently
are accused of hiding accident deaths and other unfavorable information. The Ministry of Civil Affairs issued a warning Friday
to local authorities that they would be punished if they failed to report disasters accurately.
The death toll in densely
populated Guangdong province, which borders Hong Kong, rose
Friday to 63, while the toll in neighboring Guangxi province increased to 30, Xinhua said. It said there were 43 deaths in
coastal Fujian province.
Losses in Guangdong totaled $1.1 billion, the report said.
Flood waters washed away
roads, cut power supplies and submerged part of China's
main north-south railway line in a swath of destruction that stretched across the south.
Storm-ravaged areas faced
new problems this week as a heat wave baked the region, with temperatures rising to 100 Thursday in Fujian, Xinhua said.
In Hunan, some 800,000 people were evacuated, Xinhua said. Many of those who died lived near
rivers or mountains, which were more prone to flooding and landslides, Xinhua said, citing Zhan Xiao'an, director of the Hunan provincial flood control headquarters.
He said power supplies had
not been restored to many flooded areas.
Typhoons hit China every summer, causing hundreds of deaths. The country
expects more storms than usual this year due to an unusually warm current off its Pacific coast and high temperatures on the
Xinhua also said flash floods
swept through a town in the mountainous southwest before dawn Thursday, killing at least eight people and leaving 27 others
The floods in Mengzi County in Yunnan
province swept away work sheds beside an expressway that was under construction, the report said. It did not say whether anyone
was in the sheds, but Chinese construction workers often live at the site of building projects.