ZHUJI, Zhejiang - Rescuers on rubber boats and fishing vessels delivered bottled water and instant noodles to residents stranded by flood after a bulging river broke through damaged dams and inundated houses in this East China city on Friday.
Unprecedented massive rains have struck Zhuji in central Zhejiang province over the past two weeks, as surging waters broke holes in dikes up to 100 meters long, inundating a number of outlying villages.
The flash flood has so far affected 119,400 people in the city -10 percent of its population - forced 26,400 residents to evacuate and caused estimated losses of 492 million yuan ($76 million), government figures show.
Residents have been resettled in schools and churches in higher areas, though a large number of people would not leave their partly submerged houses that were without power or clean water.
Industries have been halted, schools closed, roads cut off, and tens of thousands of hectares of crops destroyed.
The country has raised its disaster alert to Level 4, the highest level, after days of downpour forced the evacuation of more than half a million people in central and southern provinces.
Rains and flooding in South China have left 25 people dead and 25 more missing over the past five days, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said on Friday.
The heavy rains, which have been falling since Monday, battered 10 southern provinces and forced about 671,200 people to evacuate their homes as of Friday afternoon, according to a statement posted on the ministry website.
Ensuing floods, landslides and mudslides pelted several southwestern regions, as well as areas along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, the statement said.
It said that nearly 40 percent of the 295 counties affected by the current rainstorms were also hit by the two previous rounds of heavy rains.
China's central authorities have sent disaster relief teams to the provinces of Zhejiang, Anhui and Jiangxi, where heavy rains have triggered fatal floods.
In the Banshan village of Zhuji's Jiangzao township, residents said they had no way out as they gazed at the vast flooded regions where only treetops and the upper parts of road signs could be seen.
"The hope for the whole year is dashed," said Zhang Gaogen, a middle-aged resident. "It's a loss of tens of thousands of yuan."
Behind him, residents were climbing down to rescue vessels via ropes and ladders hanging outside their houses to fetch food and drinking water.
Residents said that a woman in her 70s was killed Thursday morning, when the flash flood gushed from the broken dikes and quickly surrounded the woman who was collecting vegetables in the field.
"She was too weak to survive," villagers said.
In the nearby Sanjiangkou village of Diankou township, industrial waste floated on the water unattended. Police officers and local officials were stationed at road crossings to deliver food and water, and residents were alerted that they could pick up a 500-yuan allowance at a nearby school.
The local government said that relief materials worth more than 10 million yuan and a total of 100,000 rescuers were sent to the affected zones.
"We have taken pre-emptive action at multiple sites and spotted 52 sites where geological disasters are likely to happen," said Yu Lucong, director of the city's flood-control office.
Xu Shengjie, head of the Diankou township, said that officials at his township were on high alert, and the dikes were patrolled throughout the day by 24 members in four teams.
But officials could face growing challenges if the downpour continues and the upstream Qiantang River's rising tide keeps sending water to the already swollen rivers in Zhuji.
Local meteorologists said that the city, as well as the northern and central parts of Zhejiang, will see a new round of rainfall from Friday night until the end of the weekend, with some regions hit by torrential rain.
The precipitation for the past two weeks in Zhuji is the highest since meteorological data have been collected, said the city's deputy chief meteorologist Zhou Yongzhong.
"The soil has absorbed enough water, and rivers and reservoirs are running at high levels," Yu said.
"We will try our best to reduce the losses," Yu said.