BEIJING (Reuters) – Heavy rain drenched a drought-ravaged swathe of southern and eastern China, killing 52 people and forcing more than 100,000 to evacuate, state media reported on Wednesday.
The deaths have been concentrated in the poor southern province of Guizhou, where tens of thousands have left their homes to escape the rising waters over the past few days, the official Xinhua news agency said.
Another 32 people were missing, the report added, suggesting the death toll could rise.
Almost 8,000 houses have been destroyed by the floods and thousands of hectares (acres) of farmland inundated, it said.
The other deaths have been reported in the eastern seaboard province of Jiangsu, Xinhua added, though other parts of that province remain parched.
Guizhou will be hit by more rain over the coming few days, and the government has already sent a relief team to the hardest hit areas, it said.
The drought has damaged crops and exacerbated a power shortage by cutting power generation from dams, adding a slight bump to near three-year high consumer inflation.
The rains will add to farmers' hopes that they will be able to plant mid-year rice crops after early-season plantings suffered during the drought.
The drought has affected millions of hectares of farmland, mainly in the five provinces of Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi, Anhui and Jiangsu along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze.
Rice acreage in these five provinces accounts for nearly half of China's total rice area, official data show. But early-season rice accounted for only 16 percent of China's total rice output of 196 million tones last year.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ken Wills and Sanjeev Miglani)
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