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China flooding kills 701 in worst

A senior Chinese official says flooding this year has killed 701 people, left 347 missing and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage, the worst toll from flooding in a decade.

Liu Ning, general secretary of the flood prevention agency, told a news conference that flooding has occurred across three-quarters of China's provinces and 25 rivers have seen record-high water levels.

He says in addition to the 701 dead and 347 missing, 645,000 houses have been toppled and overall damage has totalled 142.2 billion yuan (£13.7bn).

All of the figures, Mr Liu said, were the highest China had seen since 2000.

With the flood season far from over, this year is shaping up to be one of the most devastating since 1998, which was the worst in 50 years.

Flooding, particularly along the Yangtze River Basin, has overwhelmed reservoirs, swamped towns and cities, and broken off hillsides causing landslides that have smothered communities.

Soldiers used bulldozers to plow through debris Tuesday in search of survivors from separate landslides in Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces, while workers in other parts of the country scrambled to drain overflowing reservoirs and pile up sandbags to prevent further flooding, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Xinhua and state broadcaster China Central Television reported the Three Gorges Dam was dealing with its highest water levels ever when a flood crest passed the dam Tuesday morning.

The government cited flood control along the Yangtze as one of the main reasons for the $23 billion (£15bn) dam project that forced the relocation of 1.4 million people.

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