|Government rescue workers help clean the debris left by a flood in Qinghai province on Wednesday. Rain and hail battered Wulan county in the Mongolian-Tibetan autonomous prefecture of Haixi on Tuesday, and authorities said on Wednesday that the death toll had reached 24. Yuan Zhiqi for China Daily|
Premier demands the utmost efforts to save people in crisis as more rain looms on the horizon
Heavy rain may worsen flooding in many parts of the country before the end of August, challenging the country's already severe flood control situation, officials said.
As of Wednesday, at least 575 people had been killed in geological disasters triggered by floods and another 340 are missing, according to the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.
Flooding has affected nearly 80 million people, causing direct economic losses of up to 162 billion yuan ($26 billion).
Northeast China is among the hardest hit areas, with thousands of homes flooded, travel disrupted and hundreds dead in the worst flooding in 50 years.
"More heavy rains in late August may cause massive flooding of the Songhua River, inflicting more damage," said the headquarters' spokesman Shu Qingpeng on Wednesday.
The Songhua River, a major waterway in Northeast China, experienced a huge flood in 1998.
The river has had about 40 percent more rain since June than the average for the period in previous years. The total rainfall along the river this year is even higher than that in 1998, according to the headquarters.
During an emergency video conference on flood control, Premier Li Keqiang demanded the utmost efforts to save people on Tuesday.
He said local authorities must provide adequate food, water and tents to people in disaster-hit areas and spare no efforts in treating the injured. They will receive government support to pay for medical bills.
In the coming 10 days, two storms with heavy rain are expected in Northeast China, according to the National Meteorological Center.
"We will prepare for the worst-case scenario," Shu said, adding that torrential rains and typhoons are making the coming weeks extremely tough for flood control. The headquarters issued an emergency alert for flooding on Wednesday and more than 90,000 people have been working to reinforce the banks of the swelling rivers in the worst-hit Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.
More than 330,000 people have been evacuated in those three areas.
Flooding triggered by higher precipitation has plagued many parts of the country this summer.
The water levels of more than 290 rivers nationwide have risen above alarm levels.
"Dams and reservoirs will have their capacity tested to hold as much water as possible to reduce peak flows and minimize potential damage," Shu said.
As torrential rains and two or three typhoons are expected to hit China before the end of September, the severe flood control situation won't be relieved in the coming month, he said.
On Tuesday, rescuers retrieved 21 bodies after rainstorms brought floods to Northwest China's Qinghai province, and three people remained missing as of Wednesday.
The central government has allocated 2.3 billion yuan to local authorities to battle floods so far and more will be allocated, according to Shu.