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Storm, flooding kill nearly 500 in China

China’s death toll from Tropical Storm Bilis earlier this week has reached nearly 500, with most of the fatalities in the inland province of Hunan, state media said.
Diners at a flooded restaurant in Nanning, China, try to enjoy their meals Tuesday amid the water left behind by Tropical Storm Bilis.AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

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 had 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.

Phone calls were not answered Friday evening at Zixing’s government office or Hunan’s flood prevention office.

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.

Heat wave bakes region
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.

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.

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 Tibetan plateau.

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 missing.

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.