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Flood destruction in China cost $32B, authorities say

Paramilitary police officers evacuate residents in a flooded residential area in Wanzhou in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality on July 16. The flooding this summer is the most serious disaster since 1998, Chinese authorities said Thursday. File Photo by Zou Mou/EPA-EFE
Paramilitary police officers evacuate residents in a flooded residential area in Wanzhou in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality on July 16. The flooding this summer is the most serious disaster since 1998, Chinese authorities said Thursday. File Photo by Zou Mou/EPA-EFE

Oct. 8 (UPI) -- More than 70 million people were directly affected by flooding in China this summer, and damages amount to more than $32 billion, Chinese authorities say.

China's Ministry of Emergency Management said Thursday on its WeChat account a group of government agencies held a joint meeting to discuss the disasters that have led to more than 200 officially counted deaths and the destruction of tens of thousands of homes across the country.

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According to authorities, the floods impacted more than 73 million people, or 19.1% more than the five-year average. The devastation has led to significant losses or about $32 billion for regional Chinese economies, the government said.

The Chinese ministry also claimed "active countermeasures" mitigated some of the losses. Deaths from floods were down 51.5% from the five-year average. The agency said 278 people died from floods and related disasters this year, and that the number of collapsed houses also decreased, by 57.4%, from the five-year average.

On Thursday, Chinese authorities said the flooding, which raised water levels at the Three Gorges Dam and inundated cities like Chongqing in August, was the most serious disaster since 1998. Floods occurred for an extended period of time along 21 major rivers, including the Yangtze, the ministry said.

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China's recovery from summer floods is taking place as the country marks its national Golden Week, a weeklong holiday marked by busy travel.

Chinese state media reported more than 600 million people hit the road this week. China Central Television aired live footage of major tourist attractions crowded with visitors. More than 1,500 sites were either offering free or discounted admission to lure domestic travelers, state media said. Local governments have also been encouraging Chinese consumers to open their wallets as it claims victory over the coronavirus.

Beijing has yet to admit the World Health Organization for an investigation, however.

The South China Morning Post reported Thursday WHO program director Mike Ryan said it is up to Beijing to approve an international team to enter the country.

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