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Thousands of families evacuated as floods devastate China

China is today stepping up its flood control efforts after 11 days of flooding left 111 people dead and 167 others missing in the north west.

The state-run news agency Xinhua said yesterday the flooding in Shaanxi province had affected about 4.2 million people, including 703,000 who were evacuated from their homes.

With more torrential rains forecast this week, the army today sandbagged swollen rivers as country braces itself for more floods and potential landslides.

State TV news channel CCTV showed soldiers using sandbags to patch up breached riverbanks ahead of heavy rains that were expected to continue in the south west, south east and north eastern parts of the country, the national weather centre said.

Water levels along the upper parts of China's largest river, the Yangtze, are at their highest since 1987.

The Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said the situation was ‘critical’ and ordered officials to prepare for "more serious floods and disasters", Xinhua said.

Mr Wen was touring flood damage in the central province of Hubei where rising water is putting pressure on the world's biggest hydro-electric project, the Three Gorges Dam. Mr Wen ordered officials to control the dam and other key anti-flood projects. The Ministry of Water Resources has warned the water level at the dam will rise again soon and may top the record high reached on Friday.

On Saturday morning Hubei flood control headquarters said that the water level at the dam was 55ft from its maximum capacity of 573ft. But an official insisted there is no need to take special precautions because the top of the dam is 606ft high.

"There's no need to worry about it in the future. It will be safe," the water official said.

China has promoted the Three Gorges Dam as the best way to end centuries of floods along the Yangtze basin. It has shrugged off complaints about the enormous environmental impact of the £15bn reservoir that has forced more than 1.4 million people out of their homes.

Though China has heavy rains every summer, flooding this year is the worst in more than a decade. More than 1,000 people have died or disappeared in severe flooding so far this year, the highest death toll since 1998. The government says the latest flooding this year has left more than 270 people dead since July 1 and more than 700 since the start of the year. 

Hayley attribution