GUANGZHOU - The water level of more than 80 rivers and their tributaries across China has gone above the warning line, as parts of the country brace for more rainstorms in the coming days.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs said on Friday the floods in seven southern provinces and autonomous regions have affected 5.65 million people, killed 69 and left 44 missing since June 13.
The water level of the Pearl River, the second largest river by volume of water in China, reached the warning line on Thursday, threatening lives and properties of millions of people living along the river, said Zhang Zhitong, executive deputy director of the Office of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.
"It is the first time the water level of the country's major rivers has gone past the warning line since the beginning of the year," Zhang said.
The National Meteorological Center issued an orange alert for heavy rains in parts of China on Friday, urging relevant departments to take preventive measures for possible devastating floods and other geological hazards.
Lin Jian, chief forecaster at the National Meteorological Observatory, said the "most serious downpours" are expected to hit the middle and southern Chinese regions in the coming week.
A total of 131 people have been killed in 4,175 geological hazards across the country between January and May this year.
Yin Leping, deputy chief engineer from China Institute of Geological Survey, said geological hazards, which usually take place in the flooding season, have entered the peak period in June.
Zhang Zhitong said more than 1.4 million residents living along riverbanks and low-lying areas were evacuated to safety on Thursday.
"The central government has sent seven work groups to the cities worst hit by the floods to help guide relief work and spent more than 739 million yuan to help locals fight the disaster," Zhang said.
Millions of residents have been affected by floods in Guangdong, Hunan, Fujian Zhejiang, Sichuan, Guizhou and Jiangxi provinces and Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region in the past week, the civil affairs ministry said.
It added that 302,500 hectares of crops have been damaged, with crop failure in 27,500 hectares, causing a direct economic loss of 6.5 billion yuan.
Meanwhile in Guangxi, nine local officials were punished for dereliction of duty in monitoring the flood.
Among them were Party Secretary Yan Bogui and Li Tonghua, government head of Cangwu county, where a reservoir monitor was caught playing poker.
In Hezhou of Guangxi, Rescuers recovered five dead bodies of migrant workers who were washed away by the floods on Thursday. Five others were rescued, while three are still missing.
In Guangxi's Laibin, rescuers had to use a helicopter to help 13 villagers who were stranded in a tiny village in the city's Yao autonomous county on Thursday.
In Suining county of Hunan province, a person was killed and four were seriously injured when turbulent torrents roared down the mountains in 18 townships. More than 245,000 people in the county were affected.
Meanwhile, in Heyuan of Guangdong, an armed police officer was killed during rescue work.