Environmental neglect, particularly severe erosion caused by heavy logging, is partly to blame for devastating floods that have killed 3,004 people in China this summer, a senior government official said Wednesday.
The latest death toll, calculated as of Saturday, was up sharply from the government's last official figure of 2,000 three weeks ago. Vice Premier Wen Jiabao told the legislature that 1,320 of the deaths occurred along the Yangtze River.
Wen called for new efforts to protect the environment and prevent floods, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. Logging along the upper Yangtze has caused serious erosion. Denuded hillsides are unable to absorb rains, which then wash soil into the river and its tributaries.
The damage figures from the prolonged flooding are staggering: Nationwide, 5 million houses have been destroyed and 52 million acres of land swamped, according to the government. Economic losses have surpassed $20.2 billion.