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Swathe of Asia suffers flood misery

The death toll from landslides in north-western China has more than doubled to 702, as rescue crews across Asia struggle to reach survivors from flooding that has hit millions.

Rescuers digging by hand through mud found a 52-year-old man who had been trapped for more than 50 hours inside a levelled apartment building in the remote town of Zhouqu, where more than 1,000 others are still listed as missing. Rescuers with sniffer dogs discovered the man, Liu Ma Shindan, who was weak but breathing.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari has returned home to a storm of criticism after visiting Europe as his country was gripped by the worst floods in its history. His arrival came as thousands of people fled a major city in central Pakistan as rivers threatened to submerge the area.

And rescuers in the desert mountainsides of Indian-controlled Kashmir have recovered more bodies, with the death toll rising to 165 from flash floods. Thousands of army and paramilitary soldiers have continued to clear roads and remove the debris of hundreds of homes flattened in the Ladakh region.

About 200 remained missing around Ladakh, said army spokesman Lt Col J S Brar. With the road links being restored, nearly 300 people who fled to higher ground have returned to their homes, he said.

The disaster in China's Gansu province was caused when a debris-blocked swollen river burst, swamping entire mountain villages in the county seat of Zhouqu.

Tian Baozhong, the director of civil affairs in Gansu province, said the death toll now stood at 702, up from 337 on Monday.

Another survivor, Yang Zhukai, began making simple coffins for 10 to 20 of her relatives killed by the mudslide. "These are all for relatives, for relatives killed by the mudslide. It was so unexpected - a huge landslide like this. There's nothing left. We managed to escape with our lives. As far as relatives, 10 to 20 died from my village," he said.

The ruling Communist Party's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee has met to discuss rescue and relief work, a move that will likely free up even more resources.

The government said 1,042 people are missing and about 45,000 were evacuated. In Pakistan, two weeks of flooding have killed 1,500.


From Belfast Telegraph