Southwestern, central regions hit; casualties expected to rise
Chongqing - Storms killed at least 39 people in the southwestern and central parts of the country from Wednesday night to Thursday, local government authorities said.
A traffic policeman directs vehicles on a fl ooded downtown road in Xinhua county of Hunan province on Thursday. At least four people were killed and many other roads fl ooded in the torrential rains.
As of 4 pm on Thursday, 29 people had died in the Dianjiang and Liangping counties as well as Fuling district of Chongqing municipality, with one other person missing, local government sources said.
Similarly, torrential rain that started at 2 am on Thursday in Xinhua county of Hunan province also killed four people and left one other person missing, authorities said.
The rains also triggered massive landslides and mudslides.
The extreme weather that started on Wednesday night in Chongqing had left 190 people injured as of 3:45 pm on Thursday.
The storms hit seven counties in Chongqing, with Hanjia and Pengshui reporting rainfall of up to 157 mm in the 24 hours to noon on Thursday, while wind speeds of up to 112 km per hour lashed worst-hit Dianjiang and Liangping.
"The trees in front of my house were uprooted or broke into half. My house roof, which was made of steel boards, was also ripped apart," said Liangping resident Huang Hongzhi.
"I have never seen it this bad before," he told China Daily.
In Dianjiang, 1,960 residential buildings were leveled and more than 22,500 were destroyed in the storms.
Economic damage was estimated at more than 120 million yuan ($17.6 million), an official who only gave his surname as Wang from the county's emergency office told China Daily.
"Some of the affected people stayed at their friends' and relatives' to survive the night," he said.
The disaster also caused severe damage to the county's agriculture, fishery, and animal farming industries, he said.
At least 197,972 hectares of crops, 35.65 million tons of fish stocks, 2,843 heads of cattle and 105,000 poultry in the county were destroyed by the rains, he said.
The Chongqing municipal civil affairs department has sent 300 tents, 1,000 quilts and emergency lights to the affected counties and districts, officials said.
Municipal health authorities have also dispatched two teams of medical workers to Dianjiang and Liangping.
"A number of injured senior villagers don't have relatives to take care of them in the hospital because young people had gone out to work in big cities," Hua Wenfeng, general office director of Liangping People's Hospital, told China Daily.
Hua said the hospital has been treating most of the patients hit by the disaster. They mainly suffered bone fractures or concussions, with two people still in intensive care.
In neighboring Guizhou, five people were killed and four others are still missing after landslides hit the province on Wednesday night.
The rain-triggered landslides buried eight houses in three villages in Magu township of Hezhang county, the county government said in a statement.
Five bodies had been recovered by 3 pm on Thursday, it said.
The number of casualties is expected to rise as authorities are still evaluating the situation.
Torrential rain also struck Xinhua county of Loudi city in Hunan from 2 am on Thursday.
By 8 am, the county received an average of 89 mm rainfall.
A notice sent to China Daily from the publicity department of the Loudi city government said the storms stretching along an extensive region caused river levels to rise and flash floods, triggering landslides and mudslides.
It said 382,000 people were affected by the inclement weather, which caused 560 million yuan of direct economic loss to the county.
More than 1,300 houses were smashed and 3,160 people left homeless, it said.
By Thursday afternoon, 830,000 people were still trapped by the flood while 8,200 people could not return home since 3,760 houses were damaged, it said.
About 15 reservoirs showed signs of danger and 53 others had opened sluiceways to discharge floods, the statement said.
Chief weather forecaster Sun Jun from the China Meteorological Administration said severe weather such as hailstorms and torrential rains affecting Hunan and Chongqing would diminish from Friday.
Showers and moderate rains are also forecast for major cities in South China by the end of the week, according to the administration.
Wang Qian and Xinhua contributed to this story