SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - Heavy rain and thunderstorms are wreaking havoc across China, with floods along major rivers destroying bridges, blocking roads and railways, and forcing thousands of residents to evacuate, state media reported on Saturday (July 14).
State television said 241 rivers in 24 provinces had flooded in the last few days, causing direct economic losses of 25.9 billion yuan (S$5.29 billion).
Weather authorities are forecasting more downpours throughout the country on Saturday, with floods and landslides expected in the south-western province of Sichuan.
Heavy rain and flooding hits much of China this time every year, often with hundreds killed, but the number of casualties this year has been relatively low, at least in the early summer, with one province reporting 15 dead.
The National Meteorological Centre said rainfall could exceed 80mm per hour in some regions on Saturday. It also warned of floods in the north-east and called on the authorities to halt outdoor activities and watch out for collapsing structures.
The flood-prone Yangtze River, which runs from Yunnan in the south-west to Jiangsu and Shanghai on the east coast, has seen a massive increase in water volumes, causing flooding in many of its tributaries and bringing water volumes in the giant Three Gorges reservoir close to record levels.
State news agency Xinhua reported on Friday (July 13) that more than 10 highways in Sichuan were inaccessible as a result of flooding, and a bridge across Sichuan's Min river, a Yangtze tributary, had collapsed.
Floods in the province had caused damage to the tune of about 2.4 billion yuan by Thursday (July 12), according to the Ministry of Emergency Management, which had sent emergency relief teams to Sichuan and neighbouring Gansu province.
Meanwhile, the nearby city of Chongqing evacuated more than 80,000 residents by Friday, Xinhua reported.
Heavy rain has also caused the Yellow River, which runs through northern China, to burst its banks, blocking a section of a railway line in the north-west province of Shaanxi.
Gansu province, also in the north-west, reported 12 people killed and more than one million affected by a week of heavy rain and flooding, the official China Daily said on Saturday.