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China issues alert as Yangtze River braces for more rain

China issued a “level three” alert as the medium-to-lower reaches of the Yangtze River braced for more heavy rain, the China Meteorological Administration said on its website today.

Heavy downpours, including storms and torrential rain in some areas, will affect parts of Jiangsu, Hunan, Zhejiang, Anhui and Hubei provinces as early as tomorrow, the forecaster said. Landslides, floods and mudslides may occur as the soil becomes loose after a recent drought, it said.

Flooding has killed 94 people along the medium-to-lower reaches of the Yangtze River this month, with another 78 people missing, according to a China National Radio report yesterday. The region had previously suffered from a drought.

Authorities in the central province of Hunan said today that the cause of a landslide earlier this week that killed 12 people and left seven others missing was not manmade, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

An official probe said the drought had made the ground drier than usual, allowing the heavy rains to sweep away sand and rocks, resulting in the landslide that roared down a mountain slope above Guanshan village.

Torrential rains have left 36 people dead and 21 others missing in Hunan province, the agency said in a separate report, citing the local government. Direct economic losses are estimated at 2.22 billion yuan ($343 million), an unnamed spokesman for the province’s flood control headquarters was quoted as saying.

Flooding in the province has affected 3.6 million people, damaged 17,300 rural houses and forced the evacuation of 149,000 people, the agency said.

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