Torrential rains battering central and southern China unleashed floods and landslides that killed at least 94 people, turning areas enduring drought just over a week ago into scenes of muddy destruction, local news reports said on Sunday.
In Yueyang in Hunan province in the south, weather stations recorded more than 200 millimetres (eight inches) of rain in six hours, the kind of downpour that strikes once every 300 years, the China News Service reported, citing local weather officials.
In Maojiazu Village in Yueyang, the pelting downpours triggered a mudslide that crushed 24 homes and killed at least 20 residents, with another seven missing under boulders and mud, most likely dead, the Xinhua news agency reported.
"The concentrated scope, intensity and short duration of these recent rains have caused grave casualties and damage to property in some areas," said Chen Lei, the Minister of Water Resources who also oversees the State Flood Control and
Drought Relief Headquarters, according to a report on its website (http://fxkh.mwr.gov.cn).
The office warned that heavy rains forecast along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River basin could trigger floods in an area gripped by drought less than two weeks ago.
By late Saturday, the floods across parts of 13 provinces had killed 94 people with 78 missing, damaged 465,000 hectares (1,800 square miles) of crops, and toppled 27,100 houses and other buildings, the flood and drought office said.
That death toll did not appear to include all those killed in Hunan province and elsewhere.
Some 23 of those deaths happened in Xianning in Hubei province of central China, where rains triggered mudslides that also injured over 100 residents and left 10 missing.
The recent drought had "dried up the region's soil, which has increased the risk of landslides during recent heavy rainfalls", said Xinhua, citing a province government adviser.
But Maojiazu residents in Hunan also said unfettered mining had weakened hills that collapsed under the weight of the rain.
"If it wasn't for the quarrying above the village, Maojiazu would not have suffered such a disaster," said Yao Shifu, 71, according to the Beijing News.