A week of pounding rain in southern China has left at least 88 people dead and scores of others missing as officials evacuated more than a million people living alongside swollen waterways, the state media reported on Saturday.
The unrelenting storms have doused eight provinces, triggering landslides that swept away 31 people in Fujian, left the city of Guilin thigh-deep in muddy water and flooded 1.2 million acres of cropland, China Daily reported.
According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, at least 48 people are missing, including two dozen who were swept away by landslides. Officials have so far estimated the damage at $1.46 billion, with at least 156,000 homes damaged or destroyed.
The rains, which began last Sunday, are ravaging a region that just months ago was coping with a severe drought.
Television images on the state broadcaster showed rescue workers tossing ropes across an angry river to help those stranded on the other side and other workers using a small boat to ferry a group of kindergartners to safety.
Throughout the week, the storms have wrecked havoc on travel throughout the country, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights and stranding thousands of passengers at airports as far away as Beijing.
The tally of those missing in landslides include 23 construction workers buried at the site of a hydroelectric dam early Tuesday in Sichuan Province and 24 people in a bus and a minivan that were sent plunging into a river Monday in Fujian Province.
On Saturday, the Ministry of Civil Affairs issued a warning for 80 rivers whose levels had surpassed dangerous points.
Weather forecasts suggested the crisis would only worsen in the coming days, with rain expected through the weekend. “There will be heavy rain over the next three days, and flood-control work will face enormous challenges,” the National Meteorological Center said in a statement, warning that the rainfall in the south was as much as three times greater than normal.