July 18, 2007 / 2:06 AM / 12 years ago

Storm kills 15, floods cities in southwest China

BEIJING (Reuters) - Fifteen people have been killed in southwest China in a 16-hour thunder storm that caused serious flooding and brought air, road and rail traffic to a halt, state media said on Wednesday.

Downtown areas of the Chongqing municipality received 266.6 mm (10 inches) of rain between Monday night and Tuesday afternoon, the largest volume since records began in 1892, Xinhua news agency said, quoting the local meteorological bureau.

The storm, which began on Monday, also unleashed more than 40,000 lightning strikes, the China Daily said.

Ten of the reported deaths were in Chongqing and five were in the neighboring province of Sichuan, Xinhua said. Both places have already suffered badly from storms and floods this year and were hit by the worst drought in more than a century last summer.

The storm had made the main city and more than 20 suburban towns in landlocked and mountainous Chongqing “isolated islands” as highways were closed, streets flooded, bus services suspended, gas stations closed and power cut off, reports said.

State television showed pictures of people wading through waist-deep water and rescuers evacuating stranded residents.

Hundreds of flights were delayed at Chongqing airport on Tuesday, stranding over 5,000 passengers. Railway lines were also disrupted.

The storm had left five people missing and caused some 22,000 homes to collapse in Chongqing, home to about 30 million people, state media said.

Along the flooded Huai River, which has been overflowing for the past 10 days, some 270,000 displaced residents in the central province of Henan and the eastern provinces of Anhui and Jiangsu were still unable to return home, Xinhua said.

The river was expected to suffer more rain over the next few days, it added.

Large swathes of China have been hit by severe flooding this summer which have killed more than 400 people so far, causing economic losses of 37.3 billion yuan ($4.93 billion), according to state media.

$1=7.561 Yuan

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