Torrential rains and floods in southern China have left at least 20 people dead and two missing.
A local tricyclist struggles his way in the flood with a shut-down bus being detained nearby in downtown Yingtan city in southern China's Jiangxi Province, July 4, 2009. Heavy rain and storm struck the city Saturday paralysing part of the city's communications. [Hu Nan/Xinhua]
More than 700,000 people have been relocated as downpours have destroyed houses, flooded crops, cut power, damaged roads and caused rivers to overflow, according to the latest figures from the provinces of Hunan, Fujian, Jiangxi and Guangdong and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
In Hunan, eight people died and 140,000 were forced out of their homes, according to the provincial flood control office.
In Fujian, five people died and two are missing.
In Jiangxi, three people who were previously reported as missing have been confirmed dead, bringing the province's death toll to five. About 230,000 people had to flee their homes.
In Guangdong, two construction works were killed by a collapsed wall.
In Guangxi, 309,400 people were relocated. There have been no reports of casualty from the region so far.
The flood control headquarters in Jiangxi said Sunday night that crops on 200,000 hectares of farmland have been damaged and thousands of homes toppled. Direct economic losses were estimated at 3.13 billion yuan (US$458.9 million).
Jiangxi's Chongyi and Dayu counties witnessed the worst rainstorm and flood in history. Flood water was 2 meters deep in the county seat of Dayu.
In Guangxi's Rongshui county, 62 schools were flooded, and about 300 students were trapped in a boarding school.
An official with the county education bureau, Luo Enwu, told Xinhua on Sunday that local authorities had managed to send drinking water and food to them and restore power supply.
In Guangxi's Luocheng county, about thousands of residents, including 2,800 students, living downstream from the Kama reservoir dam, had been moved to safety as a 13.5-meter section of a dyke near the dam breached due to rising water level.
On Sunday, workers dug two sluices, each 15 meters wide and 10 meters deep, on the dam to discharge flood water. Chen Zhangliang, vice chairman of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, said the dangerous situation was expected to be removed within a few days with the sluices on the dam.
The strong rain began to subside on Sunday in parts of Guangxi, such as Guilin and Liuzhou cities, but local authorities are warning of possible flooding as river levels remain high.
However, eight more counties in Guangxi were hit by rainstorms Sunday, said the regional civil affairs department.
As of 6 p.m. Sunday, 3,858 homes in Guangxi had been toppled and crops on 135,210 hectares of farmland damaged. Direct economic losses from the rains stood at 1.5 billion yuan, according to the department.
Water levels in four rivers in Guangxi were above the warning levels Sunday evening and continued to rise in the Liujiang River. A flood peak was expected to appear in Wuzhou City Tuesday and water level would be four meters above the warning level, said the regional hydrological bureau.
In the tourist city of Guilin in Guangxi, traffic on 38 highways had been cut off as the highways were damaged by rain. Workers had repaired nine of them as of Sunday evening.
China is among the countries most plagued by natural disasters, with 70 percent of its cities and 50 percent of its 1.3 billion people living in areas vulnerable to one or more kinds of natural disasters.
China has suffered major natural calamities, including torrential floods in the Yangtze River valley in 1998, severe droughts in Sichuan Province and Chongqing Municipality in 2006, winter storms in southern China early last year, and the massive May 12 earthquake last year.
The United Nations said natural disasters caused nearly 110 billion U.S. dollars of damage in China last year.