Torrential rainfall claims 21 lives in central China

Heavy downpours in Hubei province come weeks after deadly deluge in neighbouring Henan

At least 21 people died after heavy downpours struck Hubei province in central China, authorities said on Friday, weeks after record floods wreaked havoc and killed hundreds in a neighbouring province.

China has been battered by unusually heavy rains in recent months, extreme weather that experts say is increasingly common because of global warming.

In Hubei, torrential rains caused power cuts and landslides, destroying hundreds of homes and forcing nearly 6,000 people to flee, the province's Emergency Management Bureau said, as reservoirs reached dangerous levels.

"Twenty-one people were killed and four others are missing as heavy rain lashed townships from Wednesday," state broadcaster Xinhua reported.

Footage showed families, carrying essentials in plastic bags, wading in water that had risen to almost hip level in Yicheng, which received a record 480 millimetres of rain on Thursday. Rescuers carried people to safety on bulldozers.

"Yesterday the water levels rose to about two to three metres. My neighbour's house was completely destroyed," a resident from one of the worst-affected areas in the city of Suizhou told local media.

"We haven't seen so much rain in 20 or 30 years."

Hundreds of firefighters and thousands of police and military personnel have been sent to the worst-hit areas, China's Ministry of Emergency Management said.

About 100,000 people were moved to safer areas in the south-western province of Sichuan last weekend when heavy rains caused several landslides.

More than 300 people were killed in central Henan province last month after record downpours dumped a year's worth of rain in three days.

China's Meteorological Administration said that heavy rainfall was likely to continue until next week, with regions along the Yangtze River, including Shanghai, vulnerable to flooding.

Updated: August 13th 2021, 1:08 PM