SHANGHAI (Reuters) -Five cities in the central Chinese province of Hubei have declared “red alerts” after torrential rain left 21 people dead and forced the evacuation of nearly 6,000 people, state media reported.
The deaths were recorded in the township of Liulin, part of the city of Suizhou in the north of the province. More than 2,700 houses and shops suffered flood damage and power, transportation and communications were also disrupted, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Rescue crews have been dispatched to the worst affected areas, including the cities of Suizhou, Xiangyang and Xiaogan, China’s Ministry of Emergency Management said. The city of Yicheng also saw a record 400 millimetres of rain on Thursday.
According to the official China News Service, as many as 774 reservoirs in Hubei had exceeded their flood warning levels by Thursday evening.
Extreme weather in the province has caused widespread power cuts and has damaged more than 3,600 houses and 8,110 hectares of crops. Total losses were estimated at 108 million yuan ($16.67 million), the official China Daily said on Friday, citing the province’s emergency management bureau.
China regularly experiences flooding during its wet summer months, but authorities have warned that extreme weather is now becoming more frequent as a result of climate change.
Around 80,000 were evacuated in the southwestern province of Sichuan last weekend and record rainfall in Henan last month caused floods that killed more than 300 people.
The China Meteorological Administration warned that heavy rainstorms were likely to continue until next week, with regions along the Yangtze river vulnerable to flooding.
State weather forecasters also issued a geological disaster warning late on Thursday, saying areas at risk include the central provinces of Hubei, Hunan, Henan and Anhui, Chongqing, Sichuan and Guizhou in the southwest as well as Zhejiang on the eastern coast.
($1 = 6.4782 yuan)
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Sam Holmes)