CHINA - Violent rainstorms have battered a large swath of central and southern China since Thursday, claiming dozens of lives, suspending flights and train rides and causing widespread flooding.
The National Meteorological Center raised its rainstorm alert to yellow on Friday morning and warned that torrential rains are expected to continue in Anhui, Hunan, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong provinces and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region before Monday.
Eight provinces issued heavy rain warnings and made preparations for potential disasters, including mudslides.
"This round of rainstorms is expected to be the heaviest so far this year," said Zhang Tao, NMC chief weather forecaster, who also warned of the high probability of urban flooding and mudslides over the next few days.
Qiu Dehua, deputy director of the Guangdong provincial water resources bureau, said mudslides triggered by torrential rain will threaten the safety of residents.
"Weather forecasts will be updated every three hours to predict the possible time, location and strength of rainfalls," Qiu said.
According to the latest statistics released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs on Friday, at least 14 people died in massive rainstorms since Thursday.
In Fuzhou, Jiangxi province, a 57-year-old primary school teacher and his 8-year-old grandson died on Friday morning after a two-story school building collapsed in a mudslide triggered by heavy rains. Two others are still missing, according to the local civil affairs bureau.
Nearly 55 million people in Shangrao, Jiangxi province, have been impacted by torrential rains, with roughly 100 buildings destroyed and more than 300 hectares of crops damaged.
The Hunan provincial civil affairs bureau said on Friday that flooding and mudslides have killed three people. Two others are still missing and 25,000 were evacuated as of Friday. More than 800 houses have collapsed and direct economic losses have reached roughly 320 million yuan ($64.1million).
Authorities in Fenghuang, a historic town in the province known for its 300-year-old architecture, decided to close several of its tourism resorts on Thursday for safety concerns.
Highways and trains passing Hunan and Guangdong provinces were suspended or delayed because of mudslides since Thursday.
On Thursday morning, a China Eastern Airlines plane missed the runway at Changzhi airport in Shanxi province during its landing, which industrial insiders blamed on heavy rains and low visibility. No one was killed or injured, the airlines said.
Since March 30, heavy rainfall has killed 43 and affected more than 4 million people in Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, Guangdong and Fujian provinces, according to the Pearl River Water Resources Commission on Tuesday. It said total direct economic losses in the delta reached more than 12 billion yuan.