BEIJING • Torrential rain lashed parts of central and south China yesterday, with floods damaging crops, forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes and killing at least 33, while the north wilted in a heat wave and drought-like conditions.
Water levels in more than 60 rivers in southern China have risen above warning levels, the flood control authority said.
Thirty-three people are confirmed dead and 15 missing as of yesterday morning, after heavy rain and flooding engulfed provinces including Hunan, Hubei, Anhui, Sichuan and Guizhou, China's Civil Affairs Ministry said.
The annual rainy season, which arrived in the second half of June, has hit southern Hunan province the most. Weather forecasters predict the relentless downpours could start to ease in coming days.
Xiangjiang river, a major tributary of the Yangtze river, exceeded its record flood level in the Hunan capital of Changsha.
The floods have swamped houses, uprooted trees, damaged cars and submerged roads.
"The water was rising, and my house was in danger of being submerged. I was relieved when I saw a rescue boat coming," said Mr Zhou Changsong, who was evacuated last Saturday afternoon from Chenxi county in Hunan.
Over 300,000 people have been evacuated across Hunan, which has lost 295,000ha of crops and seen more than 6,000 homes destroyed.
The total direct economic loss was 8.26 billion yuan (S$1.7 billion), said the provincial civil affairs office.
In Guangxi, 16 people have been confirmed dead and 10 are missing after a flood hit the south-western region following a storm, the official Xinhua news agency cited the authorities as saying.
In the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, flooding disrupted railway services, with 45 trains cancelled, forced to return or detoured.
The southern provinces produce some of China's major crops.
Guangxi is China's top sugar- cane-growing region, while Hunan is its third-largest hog-farming province. Rice is grown south of the Yangtze. China will take steps to ensure sugar reserves are safe during the rainy season, the Sugar Reserve Management Centre said.
China Southern Power Grid reported an extensive blackout in Guangxi. Electricity to half of the affected area was restored by yesterday morning. The state post bureau warned of courier delays in parts of the central, southern and south- western provinces.
HELP AT LAST
The water was rising, and my house was in danger of being submerged. I was relieved when I saw a rescue boat coming.
MR ZHOU CHANGSONG, a Hunan resident who was evacuated last Saturday.
The southern regions have seen six heavy downpours. Last month, rainfall in central Hunan province, for example, was double that of the same month last year.
China's disaster relief authorities launched a level III emergency response plan last Saturday to help flood victims. Under that response plan, the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters must report to the state council within two hours and dispatch a work team to the disaster zone within 24 hours. It has dispatched eight work teams to flood-stricken areas to guide relief work.
By contrast, stifling heat has settled over Beijing, Hebei, Henan and other northern provinces since last week, with temperatures forecast to reach 40 deg C in some areas yesterday, the meteorological bureau said.
Cities in Shaanxi province issued alerts, saying temperatures could exceed 35 deg C in the coming three days. Many in the province have ordered food to be delivered rather than cook at home in the heat. In Beijing, many residents stayed indoors over the weekend due to the heat.
Yesterday, more than 200 firefighters battled a grassland fire in the Inner Mongolia region.
The fire had crossed over to northern China from Mongolia and spread quickly in the heat, dry conditions and strong winds.
The heat wave is expected to ease by mid-week.
REUTERS, XINHUA, CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK