PEASANT Ma Qiang, of Jiangning town, Jiangsu province, lost his paddy field, his house and all his other possessions to the torrent of muddy water which tore through his village this week. Officials admit that a late warning was partly to blame for the massive losses. But more painful to Mr Ma was news that fellow villagers had stolen sandbags, pumps and even the electricity generators used to control gates along the dykes. Provincial Public Security officers are investigating at least three reports of missing generators. Villager Chen Min, 64, from Baixia on the bank of Nanjing's Qinhuai River, said: 'I saw some people installing huge water pumps in their homes. 'They're not rich . . . I suspect they've stolen the pumps.' A Nanjing Public Security Bureau spokesman admitted the theft of flood prevention supplies had been a problem in the past few days. 'A man was arrested for stealing three truckloads of stones and building materials needed to hold back the rising river. 'The problem is particularly alarming in rural areas where settlers are not well educated and are not aware what they have done may have seriously adverse effects on the battle along the Yangtze's banks,' said the spokesman. He said the Government would step up the 'education' of rural villagers. As the flood crest continued eating its way into Jiangsu yesterday, the authorities mobilised more cadres to help maintain dykes and evacuate residents in flood-prone towns. About 27,000 residents on the city's Jiangxin and Bagua islands had been led to safety. Minor ruptures of the dykes and some landslides were reported in the villages of Zhongshan, Pukou, and Changjiang on the outskirts of the city. At least two factories near the Yangtze had been forced to close due to the floods, while chemical plants were ordered to move potentially dangerous material to a dry place for storage. The fight against the flood crest is escalating, with college and secondary school students being recruited to relieve exhausted workers at the dykes. Yesterday, 120 men aged 18 or above were sent to the flood front. Clouds gathered over Nanjing again yesterday. Weather forecasters said heavy rain was expected in the southern parts and would move up to the city by the middle of the week. The water level is still rising in many parts of the city. The high tide was 10.06 metres - 1.56 metres above the danger line and 16 centimetres off the all-time high. Upstream at Datong, the Yangtze was flowing at a rate of 78,300 cubic metres a second and had risen to 16.28 metres - a centimetre higher than the previous day's record. This crest was expected to reach Nanjing today. So far there had been no report of casualties in Jiangsu. However, a provincial government spokesman said: 'We cannot be complacent. Vice-Premier Li Lanqing personally rang Jiangsu Governor Chen Huanyou and asked us to stay alert. He asked us to stay on guard until the crest had gone.'