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Floods Kill 131 in China

Heavy rains and mudslides killed dozens of people across China's densely populated southeast, pushing the region's death toll to at least 131 and forcing the evacuation of more than 900,000 people, the government said Thursday.

The flooding in some places was the worst in a century, the government said.

Meteorologists warned of more torrential rains in the south during the next few days, the official Xinhua News Agency (search) said.

At least 81 people were killed by the latest rain and landslides across an area stretching from Guangxi on China's southern coast through Guangdong (search) province to Fujian province in the southeast, the government said.

Guangdong, bordering Hong Kong (search), is the heart of China's export-oriented manufacturing industries and is its most populous province with more than 100 million people.

The latest fatalities raised the southern death toll to at least 131 and the nationwide toll in China's 3-week-old flooding season to at least 248.

China suffers hundreds of flooding deaths every summer in its south and northeast.

The impact of seasonal rains is magnified by environmental damage from decades of intensive farming and tree-cutting that have left denuded hillsides unable to trap rain. Millions of people live in vulnerable areas on reclaimed former flood plains.

In parts of Guangxi, the flooding was the worst in a century, while the inundation along the Min River in Fujian was the most severe in two decades, Cheng Dianlong, a spokesman for the government's anti-flood agency, said on state television news.

Newspaper photos showed soldiers and police rowing boatloads of residents down flooded streets. News reports said floodwaters in some parts of Guangxi reached the third floor of buildings.

In Fujian, a mudslide swept a bus and a car off a highway and into a river Thursday near the city of Jian'ou, leaving 23 people missing, Xinhua said.

In Guangxi, some 42,000 people were evacuated from low-lying areas of the industrial city of Wuzhou in case a surging river that flows through the city overwhelmed protective dikes, Cheng said.

About 570,000 people were evacuated from flood-prone areas in Guangxi, while 320,000 were evacuated in Fujian, he said. Xinhua said 25,000 people were relocated in Guangdong.

Airplanes were dropping food and drinking water to 10,000 stranded people near Wuzhou, Cheng said, adding that the people were not in "life-threatening danger."

The director of water resources for Wuzhou was dismissed Wednesday for failing to "resolutely carry out orders for flood prevention," Xinhua said without elaborating.

Elsewhere in Guangxi, flooding was reported in the popular tourist town of Yangshuo, which attracts thousands of visitors a year to its finger-like limestone peaks.

In the northeast, some 117 people, most of them schoolchildren, were killed when floodwaters destroyed a village schoolhouse in Heilongjiang province.