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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Southeast China Floods Recede, Leave 237 Dead

BEIJING -- Floods across vast swathes of south China have begun to recede, leaving 237 people dead and thousands homeless, and officials on Friday told troops and rescue workers to be on guard for more devastating storms.

"No area can lower its guard, they must be at full combat readiness and prepared to take on floods at any time," flood control expert Li Jiansheng told state media.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs put the death toll at 237 across four southern provinces of Guizhou, Zhejiang, Anhui and Jiangxi that were hit by some of the most disastrous floods in more than 150 years.

Damage had surpassed $2 billion and many areas faced a bleak harvest with newly planted rice and corn seedlings washed away by the raging waters and 1.35 million hectares swamped in the torrential storms, officials said.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs said China would not appeal for international aid but would not reject assistance.

At least 3,708 people had been injured, tens of thousands left homeless after the collapse of 211,000 houses and as many as 12 million people had been affected and 560,000 evacuated.

In Qimen county in central Anhui, residents had barely time to run from their homes before flash floods swept through whole villages, one local official said.

"This was the biggest storm in Anhui since 1824," he said. "In one village you can only tell there are buildings from a few tiles floating on the water," he said, adding that torrents with a speed of 3,500 tonnes per second had engulfed the villages.

At least 39 people were killed after torrential rains had dumped 300 to 559 millimeters across the province.

In southwestern Guizhou, storms dumped 291 millimeters of rain on the province in just two days -- a record since 1921 -- and floods and landslides had killed at least 136 people.

"Some were drowned but most were buried in mud and rockslides," one provincial official said.

Waters were starting to recede, leaving tens of thousands of troops and rescue workers to begin the grim task of cleaning up, rebuilding and replanting.

"Soldiers, policemen and rescue workers have been ordered to carry out a round-the-clock alarm watch beside river banks to monitor water levels and to be ready for more sudden storms," the official said.

Troops, some of them swimming from house to house in search of survivors, had rescued more than 100,000 people stranded by floodwaters. More than 17,000 houses collapsed and an estimated 10,000 homeless people were sheltering in schools, he said.

The storm had swamped 360,000 hectares of farmland with 10,000 hectares of crops totally destroyed. Most of the damage was to newly-sown rice and corn seedlings with the harvest expected to fall.

In southeastern Zhejiang, the death toll had risen to 48 with 256 seriously injured, officials said.