Evacuation efforts were underway yesterday as hundreds of thousands of people sought to escape rising waters on China's central Huai River, which is threatening to overflow its banks amid torrential rains, officials and press reports said.
Flood prevention work along the Huai River has reached a critical point, local officials said.
The government reported Friday there had been 569 deaths due to flooding in China so far this year and some 2.29 million people had been evacuated from disaster areas around the country.
Rains that have brought flooding in central, eastern and southern China since mid-May have already destroyed more than 505,000 homes and damaged another 1.33 million.
Economic losses nationwide are estimated at some 39.87 billion yuan (US$4.8 billion), the Ministry of Civil Affairs report said.
Meanwhile, more than 40 people, including tourists, were missing yesterday morning after a huge mud-rock flow in Danba county in southwest China's Sichuan Province. Heavy rains have drenched the region at the headwaters of the Yangtze River since mid-June, Xinhua news agency said.
Some 90 people and two vehicles remained stranded in the mud flow in a mountainous region just east of the Tibetan Plateau, it said.
With water levels above warning marks along the central Huai River, China's third longest, the government is struggling to prevent further disaster along the river which flows through central Henan and Anhui provinces and eastern Jiangsu province.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶), who departed Beijing yesterday to visit the Huai River area, was seen on television inspecting and directing flood prevention work and evacuation measures.