BEIJING, July 13 (Xinhua) -- China has facilitated the transfer of fiscal budgetary funds for flood relief as continuous rainstorms have wreaked havoc across a wide swath of the country, threatening to inundate rivers and cause more casualties and property losses.
Since the start of the flood season, China has allocated central budgetary funds for disaster relief totaling 1.155 billion yuan (about 165 million U.S. dollars) for regions hit by floods, Zheng Guoguang, vice head of the Ministry of Emergency Management (MEM), told a press conference on Monday.
To help flood-hit regions overcome difficulties, the country has established a mechanism to allocate natural disaster relief funds from the central budget more quickly and efficiently, according to a circular, jointly released by the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and the MEM on Tuesday.
A new practice is that local authorities in flood-hit areas can apply for part of the budgetary disaster relief funds before the tallying of disaster losses is completed.
Under the new mechanism, an earlier batch of relief funds totaling 615 million yuan was channeled to Anhui, Jiangxi, Hubei, Guangxi, Chongqing, and Guizhou, with 430 million yuan going to local flood control, and 185 million yuan to residents' disaster relief.
MEM official Yang Xiaodong commended the mechanism as it allowed the ministry to respond faster. "We can now activate the procedures of fund earmarking and supplies allocation before we receive disaster reports, and get involved earlier than before," Yang said in an interview with China National Radio.
"This can effectively reduce the number of people who die or disappear in disasters, and save people's lives and properties to a much better extent," he said.
China faces a particularly tough challenge in flood control this year, based on hydrological and meteorological data available. Floods that triggered alerts have been observed in 433 rivers nationwide since June. Of these rivers, 33 beat previous water level records, Ye Jianchun, vice minister of Water Resources, told a press conference.
As of 7 a.m. on Monday, floods in 27 provincial regions had affected a population of 38.73 million, leaving 141 people dead or missing, and necessitating more than 2.24 million emergency relocations. Around 29,000 homes were destroyed, and direct economic losses reached 86.16 billion yuan.
"Frequent floods are expected in China's rivers in July and August due to heavy rainfall," said Wang Zhangli, an official with the Ministry of Water Resources, requiring a high level of vigilance.
Facing mounting pressure from heavy rainfall, the central government has required related departments to coordinate financial support for the reconstruction of destroyed houses and facilities.
Premier Li Keqiang reiterated at Wednesday's State Council meeting that people's lives are the top priority, and efforts should be made to increase material and funding support to help local authorities relocate disaster-hit residents.
MEM official Zhang Jiatuan urged local governments to take more effective flood control measures in monitoring and early warning and reservoir regulation, while making solid preparations in rescue teams, supplies, equipment, and communication support.
The MOF earlier said it would spare no efforts to ensure the availability of funds for disaster relief, especially those for flood situation monitoring, hidden danger detection, emergency supplies preparation, assistance to and resettlement of affected people, as well as rescue and evacuation services after the disaster. Enditem