Typhoon wreaks havoc in south China

People carrying cash boxes walk across a flooded street as they are escorted by the armed security personnel of a cash-in-transit company after Typhoon Utor hit Maoming, Guangzhou province.

CHINA - At least 20 people are dead and seven are missing across Guangdong province, south China on Monday afternoon after Typhoon Utor slammed into the region with high winds and torrential rain, according to the Guangdong Provincial Department of Water Resources.

The authorities said that among the casualties, at least 10 died after dikes in Puning and Shantou in eastern Guangdong ruptured on Sunday and Monday, flooding low-lying homes.

Many villages and towns along the coast are flooded, according to a statement by the city government of Shantou on Monday.

"I saw many houses collapse during the storms and some pedestrians were washed away," said a villager named Liao who lives in nearby Simapu. "The water level was still rising by Monday morning."

Liao said the local People's Liberation Army garrison used steamboats and rubber dinghies to help rescue flood victims.

More than 19,000 houses have been destroyed and another 7,000 damaged in 18 cities in Guangdong since Utor swept through western parts of the province on Thursday. So far, Utor has caused 4.9 billion yuan (US$800 million) in direct economic losses and affected approximately 4.16 million people.

Many people asked for help through micro blogs when their houses flooded.

Over the past two days, the Shantou bureau of water resources urged locals on its official micro blog to seek help through the social networking platform and inform the authorities of their location and the surrounding flood conditions.

More than 100,000 residents in 22 low-lying villages have been so far relocated, though many villagers were still stranded by noon on Monday.

The cities of Heyuan, Zhanjiang, Maoming, Yunfu, Zhuhai, Shenzhen, Meizhou, Shaoguan, Chaozhou, Jieyang, Zhaoqing and Huizhou were hardest hit by Utor, with many houses destroyed or damaged.

Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong, was also hit hard by the storms over the past two days.

Thousands of passengers have been stranded in Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport since Thursday after flights were cancelled or delayed because of the storms.

At Guangzhou Railway Station, partial service resumed on Monday morning after a one-day suspension due to a landslide in the northern part of the province over the weekend.

Railway officials said a high number of trains would still have to be cancelled in the coming days. After rail service was halted on Saturday, more than 80,000 passengers were stranded at the station at one point, one of the country's busiest, according to sources with Guangzhou Railway Corp.