Torrential rains pummelling south China have left 16 dead or missing this week, destroyed thousands of houses and forced the evacuation of more than 172,000 people, the government said on Wednesday.
The government ordered flood prevention measures amid mounting fatalities and economic losses resulting from heavy downpours.
"The southern region of our nation has entered the flood season. We can expect the possibility of major flooding at any time," water resources minister Chen Lei said in a statement posted on his ministry's website.
Fourteen people died and two were missing in the provinces of Guizhou and Henan, in southwest and central China respectively, since Monday, the ministry said, in addition to 41 deaths and eight missing reported due to flooding since April 1.
Since Monday, more than 172,000 people have been evacuated in the two regions due to torrential rains, while nearly 13,500 homes have collapsed and some 33,000 others have been damaged, the ministry said.
In a speech given Tuesday, Chen ordered flood prevention work to be stepped up on all major rivers, reservoirs and lakes, while urging efforts to minimise damage from landslides and typhoons.
"The situation is extremely serious, the difficulties and challenges we face do not allow us to take things lightly," Chen said.
South and central China are prone to major flooding during the annual summer rainy season that every year leaves a trail of death and destruction.
According to the ministry, direct economic losses due to heavy rains and flooding nationwide amounted to 2.04 billion yuan (300 million dollars) from April 1 to June 8, while losses over the last three days amounted to 1.9 billion yuan.