China warns of disease outbreaks in flood-hit areas as death toll rises

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China has warned of crop and animal diseases breaking out as floodwaters retreated from rural areas in the north, while some cities struggled to restore drinking water supplies after the worst flooding in six decades which have left more than 30 dead.

Hebei province, which shares a border with the capital Beijing, was struck by more than a year’s rainfall last week from storms that followed Typhoon Doksuri, affecting autumn crops and damaging agricultural equipment.

It comes as the Beijing Daily newspaper reported that there had been 33 deaths from heavy floods in the capital, as of 8 August. Eighteen people remained missing, the paper said on Wednesday.

Agriculture minister Tang Renjian said local authorities must step up measures to prevent and control major disease outbreaks caused by dead animals, pests and insects. He made the comments after an inspection of affected areas on Tuesday.

Waterlogging must also be reduced and floodwaters from planted fields drained to minimise crop losses, Tang said, adding that it must be ensured that winter wheat planting is unaffected.

Farms across Hebei have been severely affected, with numerous pigs and sheep drowning in the flood waters and crops destroyed.

“Agricultural and rural departments at all levels should accurately assess the disaster situation of farmers, help the affected farmers solve practical difficulties, and prevent disaster-caused poverty or return to poverty,” Tang said in a statement posted on the ministry website.

In Zhuozhou, the worst-hit city in Hebei, workers in hazmat suits sprayed disinfectant in built-up areas to prevent the spread of disease, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Clean water supplies were cut off in some rural areas, as well as in Hebei cities such as Shijiazhuang, where water pipes and wells were destroyed in the floods, affecting tens of thousands of people.

The water resources ministry has declared an emergency response to quickly restore drinking water supplies, including setting up supply points and sending water trucks.

Read More: China warns of disease outbreaks in flood-hit areas as death toll rises

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