AN area just north of Beijing, which has long suffered from drought, is now facing an unprecedented flood which has already affected tens of thousands of people and caused huge financial losses. According to a report compiled by the Miyun County Government at the end of last month, more than 33,000 people living around the Miyun reservoir, about 80 kilometres north of the capital, have been hit by the flood. The waters have inundated a vast area of grain fields, orchards, fishponds, vegetable farms, and farms producing Chinese herbal medicine, leaving a per capita financial loss of 800 yuan (HK$720), which is about equivalent to the average Chinese farmer's annual income. Miyun's water level has now reached 153.8 metres, its highest ever, and continues to rise, raising the spectre of even greater devastation. 'The sharp increase of Miyun's water level will ameliorate the capital's water shortage and benefit the capital's construction and development,' the report said. Indeed, officials have said that recent heavy rains have alleviated Beijing's normally dire water situation for the next two or three years. 'On the other hand it has caused an emergency situation in the area surrounding the reservoir,' the report said. To salvage some of their crops, peasants have been using small boats to pick fruit from the submerged orchards and have been wading through waste-high water to harvest corn. 'Because they have no hope for the future, many people stand at the water's edge sighing, and they are emotionally unstable,' said the report. The local government is still trying to rehouse the 500 people already forced by the floods to move out of their homes, and has yet to sort out a means of providing portable water and food supplies for people in the area.