China floods kill 52 as 100,000 flee homes

BEIJING, June  8, 2011 (AFP) - Floods triggered by torrential rain in southern and central China have killed 52 people and forced more than 100,000 to flee their homes, state media reported Wednesday.

Another 32 people were missing in the floods which have inundated parts of 12 provinces since the start of June, Shu Qingpeng, deputy head of the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, told a conference, Xinhua news agency said.

The southwestern province of Guizhou was the hardest hit, with 21 dead, more than 30 missing and some 100,000 evacuated, Xinhua said in a separate report citing the ministry of finance.

Guizhou's Wangmo county recorded 122.5 millimetres (4.8 inches) of rainfall in one hour, the most in 200 years, Shu said.

The floods across China have destroyed nearly 7,500 houses and submerged 255,000 hectares (630,000 acres) of farmland, causing direct losses of 4.92 billion yuan ($760 million), he said.

Shu warned local authorities to monitor rainfall and water levels as further heavy rains are expected to hit many parts of the country over the next few days.

In the province of Hunan, which neighbours Guizhou, around 16,000 people were evacuated in Loudi city during rainstorms, Xinhua reported on Monday.

The province has recently been hit by a severe drought, and the recent rains had helped alleviate the situation.

China suffers from serious summer rainfalls every year. In 2010, torrential downpours across large swathes of the country triggered the nation's worst floods in a decade.

More than 4,300 people died or went missing in China last year in landslides or floods, including 1,500 people who were killed in one devastating mudslide in the northwestern province of Gansu in August.

China's flood control and drought relief headquarters said Monday that the recent downpours had helped ease a severe drought along the Yangtze river, but warned that more than two million people still faced water shortages.

Weather authorities warned that rainfall this month, while relieving drought-hit areas, would also trigger floods in other parts of the country, Xinhua reported.