NONG'AN, Jilin, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) -- With the approach of a new round of torrential rains, the country roads in flood-ravaged Nong'an County in northeast China were packed with villagers fleeing their homes Wednesday.
Traveling aboard tractors, trucks, mini-buses, and motorcycles, and carrying belongings such as quilts and chicken, thousands of people set off on a journey of exodus.
Up to 27,000 villagers living downstream from the Songhua River in Jilin Province need to be evacuated as downpours are expected to batter Nong'an from Wednesday evening until Friday, said Wang Wei, deputy Communist Party chief of the county.
"Fresh downpours may lead to the breach of riverbanks and two reservoirs upstream would have to open sluices to discharge water, which would threaten the lives of residents downstream," Wang said.
"The mass evacuation began in the early morning today. By now, 18,000 people have moved to safety. There are still 9,000 young villagers who were asked to stay and help fortify the riverbanks," he said in the late evening.
Torrential rains pounded the county one week ago, swelling the Songhua River and inundating almost 50,000 hectares of cropland, or about half of the total farming area.
"I really don't want to leave my home. But the village officials told me: so long as you are still alive, you will have your home again," said Yu Shutao from Liansankeng Village.
"I will bring my family to go to my elder brother's home in the town. As soon as the floods recede, I will come home to attend my cropland," he said.
Thirty-two-year-old villager Sun Lianhua sat in a mini-bus with her dog.
"The dog is like a member of my family. I will bring it everywhere I go," she said.
Rainstorms have pelted Jilin Province since late July, setting record-high rainfall levels in seven cities of 13 counties. The rain-triggered floods have left 74 people dead and 71 remain missing.
More than 170,000 residents in the province have been evacuated to 400 safe locations, including schools, government offices and welfare organizations, and another 310,000 people have turned to friends or relatives for temporary housing.
Also, some residents have set up make-shift shelters for themselves.
"We made a plastic shelter on the mountain behind my house Saturday when we were hit by a rainstorm. We can stay here when the heavy rains come," said Bi Jian'an, a villager in Sandaohu Village, Baishan City.
In Changshan Town, Huadian City, three officials have been sacked for failing to discharge floodwaters at the Dahe Reservoir. The decision not to discharge water resulted in more then 40 people dead or missing in downstream villages after the reservoir breached its banks last Wednesday.
The floods have destroyed 677 bridges and damaged 51 reservoirs in Jilin since July 27.
Direct industrial losses exceed 3 billion yuan (443 million U.S.dollars), according to officials, after more than 300 companies were forced to halt or reduce production amid the floods and continuous downpours.
Jilin has received 1 million yuan in donations from the Shanghai municipal government and 3 million yuan from the Zhejiang provincial government for rescue and relief work.
Nationwide, rain-triggered floods have left 1,072 people dead and 619 missing this year, a senior flood control official said Wednesday.
The floods affected 140 million people in 28 provinces and regions and caused economic losses estimated at almost 210 billion yuan, said Shu Qingpeng, deputy director of the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.
The flooding also destroyed more than 1.1 million homes and damaged 9.72 million hectares of farmland, Shu said during an online interview with the Chinese government web portal www.gov.cn on Wednesday.
China's large rivers, including the Yangtze, the Yellow and the Songhua, were all swollen to dangerous levels after heavy rains, which inundated more than 160 cities across the country, Shu said.
Eight small reservoirs collapsed during the rains, but no casualties were reported, though another 1,000 reservoirs were at risk. Water also overflowed from some small and medium-sized rivers, Shu said.
Local authorities evacuated 10.42 million people from areas at risk of flooding this year, he said.
Shu said President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice Premier Hui Liangyu were concerned about the disasters, as well as with the flood control and rescue work.
Premier Wen was inspecting flood control operations in Jilin Province on Tuesday and Wednesday. Vice Premier Hui stressed Tuesday that more efforts should be made to step up late rice planting to guarantee a good harvest in the wake of the floods.