China predicts further downpours after 71 die

BEIJING (Reuters) - Torrential rain has killed at least 71 people in floods, house collapses and rockslides across southern China with more heavy rain predicted for much of this week, state media said on Monday.

A man paddles through a flooded street during a rainy day in Meizhou, south China's Guangdong province, June 10, 2007. Storm floods in southern China have destroyed nearly 50,000 homes, killed at least 66 people and forced over 500,000 others to flee the area, Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday, citing the Ministry of Civil Affairs. REUTERS/China Daily

About 643,000 people were evacuated and some 56,000 houses destroyed and 104,000 damaged, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing an unnamed official at the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

“We’ve got experience of floods, but I’ve never known a flood like this,” Zhong Shizhan, a resident of Mei county in Guangdong province, was quoted as saying by the Southern Metropolis Daily.

The National Meteorological Centre forecast heavy rain south of the Yangtze, China’s longest river, and continued downpours in the south of the country until Thursday.

One official said the rain had stopped in the northeastern Guangdong city of Meizhou where a local government Web site showed pictures of people standing waist deep in brown flood waters and others filling sandbags to keep the waters at bay.

Nearly 9 million people had been affected. Thirteen people were missing and 3.43 billion yuan ($446.8 million) of damage caused.

A total of 350,000 ha, or 1,350 sq miles, of crops had been damaged and 57,600 ha had been destroyed.

From Wednesday to Saturday, continuous rain, mudslides and floods hit the provinces of Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Jiangxi and Fujian.

China’s typhoon season is just getting under way in the south. Experts last month warned that the Yangtze could flood badly this year for the first time since 1998 when flooding killed more than 3,000 people.

Other parts of the country were reeling from intense heat, with the northeastern province of Jilin seeing temperatures soar above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), Xinhua added.

Jilin’s Tonyu county recorded temperatures of 41.6 degrees, the highest in local history, the report said.

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