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In Chongqing’s ramshackle neighborhood of Old Street, down by the Yangtze River, shopkeeper Liu cleans up the mess from last month’s floods. She lines up dozens of pairs of sodden, mud-caked shoes on the pavement outside, appealing hopefully to a passerby. “I will sell at any price,” she says.

The pedestrian moves quickly on and Liu is left to rue a curse that besets China almost every year, costing millions of dollars in damage and, in bad years like this one, hundreds of lives — the failure to prevent its rivers from overflowing.

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