Source AP ©

Rainstorms kill 31 in China, thousands of homes flooded

Record-breaking rainstorms left 31 people dead, 171 injured and eight missing in eastern China, state media reported Thursday, raising the nationwide death toll from heavy rains to at least 79 this week.

The deaths occurred when rainstorms hit Jinan, the capital of Shandong province, on Wednesday night, the official Xinhua News Agency said, quoting the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Nearly 6,000 homes had been flooded in the province by Thursday morning, it said.

The city and surrounding area received a record 180 millimeters (7 inches) of rainfall in a three-hour period. The storms also stalled traffic and cut electricity and water supplies for three hours, Xinhua reported, citing the city government.

The report did not specify how the victims died.

Several parts of China have been hit by floods, lightning strikes and droughts in the last several months, killing hundreds of people and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

Earlier this week, lightning strikes and mud flows triggered by record-breaking torrential rains killed at least 37 people and left 14 missing in the western province of Sichuan and neighboring Chongqing city, an independent municipality.

In Chongqing, 266.6 millimeters (10.5 inches) of rain fell between Monday night and Tuesday afternoon _ the largest volume since records began in 1892, Xinhua reported. The previous record of 206.1 millimeters (8.1 inches) was set on July 1996, Xinhua said.

But Xinhua said the rainfall had began to ease in Chongqing.

Eleven people have also died this week in northwest China's Xinjiang region in rainstorms that left more than 100 injured, Xinhua reported.

It said 38,500 people were evacuated from their homes because of the heavy rains. Traffic on several major highways in the region was also disrupted.

A rainstorm also stranded more than 80 vehicles on a highway in Tibet in southwest China. Xinhua said there were 30 cave-ins along a 5-kilometer (3-mile) stretch of the highway. No causalities were reported.

Deadly flooding is a perennial problem in China, with floods killing hundreds of people, destroying 118,500 homes and affecting more than 42 million people so far this year, according to the national flood control office.

Millions of people in central and southern China live on reclaimed farmland in the flood plains of rivers.

Flooding and typhoons killed 2,704 people last year, according to the China Meteorological Administration. That was the second-deadliest year on record after 1998, when summer flooding claimed 4,150 lives.

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