Image: Chinese man fishes in flood area
A flooded resident of Wuhan, China, makes the most of the situation Wednesday by fishing in waters from the overflowing Changjiang River. The Yangtze River also flows by the city and is close to bursting its banks.
updated 7/26/2007 9:16:37 AM ET 2007-07-26T13:16:37

Flooding in China’s far west has killed 32 people, state media said Thursday, while a central city of 9 million was on high alert as the mighty Yangtze River approached dangerous heights.

Heavy rainstorms in Xinjiang in the past 10 days triggered floods that led to the 32 deaths and left three people missing, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Meanwhile, water levels on the Yangtze — China’s longest river and lifeline to tens of millions of people — rose to 82 feet Thursday, its highest level this year, Xinhua said. The danger level is 90 feet.

In Wuhan, the capital of central Hubei province, officials ordered stepped up patrols along nearby Yangtze dikes and sluice gates.

Water levels are expected to keep rising for the next several days, Xinhua quoted local officials as saying. The regular level of the river was not given.

Sandbags have been prepared and drills on how to handle river breaches were being held Thursday and Friday, it said.

According to Xinhua, floods have hit nearly half of China’s regions and killed at least 400 people since the start of the annual rainy season in May.

More warnings
Warnings were also issued for central Hunan province, where 15,000 government workers and 260,000 residents were guarding dikes and sluice gates.

About 540 miles of dikes in Hunan are saturated by dangerously high waters, Xinhua said. More heavy rains are expected and parts of the province could be hit by a typhoon.

In eastern Jiangsu province, officials expected the Huai River to remain at dangerously high levels for at least 10 days, Xinhua said.

A senior Commerce Ministry official said the government had released meat from reserves to help people living in flooded areas.

"Some areas of the country have suffered serious flooding and pork supplies are tight. So after the Commerce Ministry discussed with other government departments, we decided to use the meat reserve," said Fang Aiqing, head of the ministry's market operations department.

Deadly weather
Summer is peak rainy season in China, where the millions of people in the central and southern parts of the country live on farmland in flood plains.

Flooding and typhoons killed 2,704 people in China last year, according to the China Meteorological Administration. That was the second-deadliest year on record after 1998, when summer flooding claimed 4,150 lives.

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