BEIJING (AP) — Three days of heavy rain in southern China have left 50 people dead and another 12 missing and destroyed thousands of homes, authorities said Sunday, as areas along the Yangtze River braced for more floods.
Torrential rains caused the deaths of 27 people and left a further 12 missing since Thursday in central Hubei, the provincial civil affairs department said. Nearly 400,000 people have been evacuated or are in need of aid in the province. Almost 15,000 houses have collapsed or are seriously damaged and more than 500,000 hectares of crops have been affected, causing direct economic losses of 5.669 billion yuan ($850 million), the department said.
In mountainous Guizhou province in the southwest, the bodies of 23 people were found after a landslide buried a village Friday, Dafang county government said. Seven people were injured.
Rainstorms soak the southern part of China every year during the summer monsoons, but this rainy season has been particularly wet.
State television on Saturday showed people using boats to navigate flooded streets in eastern Anhui province. Anhui's civil affairs department said 18 people have died and four are missing due to heavy rain since June 18.
Vice Premier Wang Yang warned last month that there was a high possibility of floods in the Yangtze River and Huai River basins this year, which equate to a large swath of China's southern, central and eastern areas.
He said the situation was made worse by "super El Nino." El Nino is the natural warming of parts of the Pacific Ocean that changes weather worldwide and the latest occurrence of the phenomenon has been blamed for triggering droughts in parts of Africa and India and playing a role in a record hurricane season in the Pacific.
A similar El Nino effect was linked to China's worst floods in recent history, when 4,150 people died in 1998, most along the Yangtze. Flood control measures along China's longest river, including dikes, have since been reinforced, but experts say this time severe floods are likely to hit the Yangtze's tributaries, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
The Yangtze River flood control headquarters has ordered local authorities to remain on high alert.