BEIJING Torrential rain in two drought-stricken central China provinces triggered landslides and brought down houses, killing at least 44 people and leaving 33 missing, state media said on Friday.
The number of people evacuated from the city of Xianning in Hubei province rose to 100,000 by Friday evening, with thousands still stranded, official news agency Xinhua said.
Fierce downpours started on Thursday evening, causing landslides and destroying river embankments in parts of the city. Flood waters reached depths of more than 2 meters (6.5 ft) and 20 people were killed.
In the cities of Linxiang and Yueyang in nearby Hunan province, the death toll rose to 19 by late Friday, with another 28 still missing, Xinhua said.
The two provinces were among the worst hit by a severe drought in recent months that affected millions of hectares of farmland in central and southern China along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze river.
Over the weekend, a tropical storm is forecast to hit two other provinces, Xinhua said.
The China Meteorological Administration said in a statement on its website (www.cma.gov.cn) that the storm, Sarika, is expected to make landfall near the city of Shantou in southeast China's Guangdong province then head north toward Fujian.
The storm may also affect shipping in the key Taiwan Strait, Xinhua said.
The drought damaged crops and exacerbated a power shortage by cutting power generation from dams, adding a slight bump to near three-year high consumer inflation.
The drought ended last weekend with the rains that have brought deadly floods, so far killing about 100 people in 12 provinces.
In eastern Jiangxi province, 1,200 people were stranded by floods after heavy rain fell on the northern part of the province on Thursday, China News Service said in a separate report.
(Reporting by Sally Huang and Michael Martina; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)