(Bloomberg) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping called on local governments to make use of recent stimulus for flood disaster relief as he visited with victims of the devastating and fatal storms in northern China earlier this summer.

“In the face of rare floods, villagers have suffered great losses and I would like to express my sympathies,” Xi told a group of residents during a tour of areas hit by flooding in Beijing and Hebei province on Friday, according to China Central Television. The floods claimed at least 40 lives in the region. 

Several areas in the northern part of the country — including Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei — were hit hard by heavy storms that caused widespread damage and forced the evacuation of nearly 1 million people. Some residents in the region had lamented receiving little help from local officials. 

Last month, China’s legislature announced plans to issue additional sovereign debt worth 1 trillion yuan ($137 billion) in the fourth quarter to support disaster relief and construction. That came as part of a proposal to raise the fiscal deficit ratio to about 3.8% of gross domestic product, a rare mid-year revision.

Xi referenced that stimulus on Friday, saying that the debt issuance was intended to “support post-disaster recovery and reconstruction projects and enhance disaster prevention, mitigation and relief capabilities.”

“I hope that villagers will be self-reliant, work hard, and use your diligent hands to speed up recovery and reconstruction and promote rural revitalization,” Xi said, according to CCTV.

Xi was absent from public view during the initial government response in August, with some in China taking to social media to highlight appearances by previous Chinese leaders on the front lines of disasters, in apparent contrast with Xi. 

In September, he visited other parts of China that had been hit by floods, saying he was “concerned about the disaster-stricken places.”

--With assistance from Li Liu.

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