Flooding takes financial, emotional toll on south China villagers

Zhoushang Village, China (CNN) -- Riding a small rowboat headed home, Deng Jiangyi examined the muddy water all around him -- eerily dotted with treetops, electrical poles and flocks of ducks.

"This year's floods were so extreme that almost the entire village got submerged," lamented the 66-year-old farmer. "Everything is gone -- everything."

Nearly all of the village's 1,600 residents lost their livelihood -- with their crops and livestock under water.

The last time Deng saw his village turn to a lake was in 1955, when heavy flooding similarly inundated Zhoushang in southern China.

"We had to flee to the mountain nearby and took refuge in the big temple there," he recalled.

This time Deng managed to seek sanctuary on the upper floors of his three-story house, though he said water level reached chest high on the ground floor.

More than half of his less fortunate fellow villagers had to be evacuated by the government. In the whole Zhejiang province, where Zhoushang Village is located, authorities said Monday they moved 292,000 people to shelters after severe flooding destroyed 8,400 houses and caused $1.2 billion in economic losses.The flooding, which began with heavy rainfall on June 3, has claimed at least 175 lives in southern and eastern China, the country's Ministry of Civil Affairs said this week. Another 86 people are missing. Thirteen provinces have been affected, more than 1.6 million people have been evacuated, and the direct economic losses have reached 32.02 billion yuan ($4.9 billion), the ministry said.

Deng said he lost several thousand dollars on cotton and peanuts but, despite the lack of agricultural insurance, he tried to put on a brave face.

"The state cares about us," he said. "I'm sure there will be government compensations."

Others in the village aren't so certain, privately complaining to CNN about what they perceived as official ineptitude and indifference.

Even with the scorching sun replacing torrential rain, some villagers said the government's slow effort to drain the floodwater would make the village a "hot pot" for at least one more week.

That prospect frightens villagers such as Hu Xiaolan. With her husband hospitalized and both children working out of town, the floods couldn't have arrived at a worse time.

Standing next to her house ravaged by the flood, Hu, 54, said she simply felt overwhelmed.

"I don't have money to repair the collapsed kitchen, and I still need to pay my husband's medical bills," she said, her voice breaking. "And all my harvests are gone this year."

"I've heard there may be even more water coming," she added, wiping tears away. "I hope the government will give us a hand, offering some financial help to alleviate our burden."

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