BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Thursday said it would spare no effort to ensure the novel coronavirus epicentre of Hubei province was well protected from flooding this summer, amid warnings that heavier-than-usual rain could cause widespread damage.
Water levels in 148 rivers in China have risen above warning thresholds, Vice Minister of Water Resources Ye Jianchun told a news conference in Beijing, with nationwide rainfall 6% higher than the average for the same period in previous years.
The mayor of Hubei's provincial capital, Wuhan, which is at the confluence of the Yangtze and Han rivers in central China and saw the first reported novel coronavirus cases last year, warned in March of the need to prepare for floods.
"No matter what the situation, we will pay special attention to the flood control work of Hubei," Ye said.
"And we hope that after all efforts, Hubei will not have problems in flood control and the people of Hubei will not be made to suffer any more."
Noting that there are many rivers and lakes in Hubei, where the novel coronavirus has killed more than 4,500 people, Ye said flood control in the province would be a "very heavy" task even without the epidemic.
The challenge was even greater this year because the epidemic has coincided with the usual preparation period, he added.
Nevertheless, Ye said his department had been working on flood control in Hubei since February and the province had done a good job under difficult circumstances.
Hubei will speed up renovation work on buildings previously damaged in floods and eliminate potential hazards, Ye said, assuring that the authorities would be "targeted" and "meticulous" in their monitoring of rainfall.
(Reporting by Tom Daly; additional reporting by David Stanway in Shanghai; Editing by Robert Birsel)