Workers begin repairs on breached river as China struggles with widespread flooded areas

BEIJING (AP) — Workers and soldiers began repairing two breached areas on a river Friday after widespread flooding killed more than 200 people and caused $6.4 billion in damages across southern China.

Rescuers worked along on the Fuhe river near Fuzhou city in Jiangxi province, said a report posted on the Jiangxi Flood Control Headquarters website, days after it breached its banks and a dike on another portion of the river burst, forcing the evacuation of 100,000 people.

Thousands of soldiers and workers transported stones and sandbags to block and redirect water flows, with the goal of patching up the breach within the next week, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

But more torrential rains are expected for the southern regions of Guizhou, Hunan, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Fujian, and Guangxi, Xinhua reported, threatening to hamper rescue efforts that have seen a total of 2.4 million people evacuated from their homes.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is in Fuzhou to rally rescuers and comfort victims, wearing galoshes and wading through floodwaters in the disaster area, according to footage aired on China Central Television.

"You are not afraid of sacrifice and in 48 hours, managed to rescue 100,000 people without a single casualty," Wen told paramilitary troops, speaking into a bullhorn shielded with an orange plastic bag. "You have created a miracle in history."

The premier, whose frequent trips to disaster zones have made him the grandfatherly face of the stiff Chinese leadership, later toured a sports arena that was turned into a shelter for displaced residents. He asked an old woman whether she had enough to eat and sat on a straw mat on the ground to chat with a woman holding a baby.

Storms have pounded southern China for more than a week, killing at least 211 people, with more than 100 missing, as landslides have cut off transportation and rivers and reservoirs have overflowed.

China sustains major flooding annually along the mighty Yangtze and other major rivers, but this year's floods have been especially heavy, spreading across 10 provinces and regions in the south and along the eastern coast.