At least 16 people died and 18 others were missing after a sudden rainstorm in western China triggered a landslide that diverted a river and caused flash flooding in populated areas, Chinese state media said Thursday.
Rescuers, who earlier reported 36 people missing, had found 18 of them by early afternoon, state broadcaster CCTV said in an online update. The Wednesday night disaster affected more than 6,000 people in six villages in Qinghai province, CCTV said.
China is facing both heavy rains and flooding in some parts of the country this summer and extreme heat and drought in other regions. State media has described the prolonged heat and drought as the worst since record-keeping started 60 years ago.
Emergency authorities described the flash flooding in Qinghai’s Datong county as a “mountain torrent.” Such torrents generally result from heavy squalls in mountainous areas. Water running down the mountain can turn gullies or streams into raging rivers, catching people by surprise.
Video posted by the Beijing News website showed muddy water rushing down a wide street at night and debris-strewn areas with uprooted trees, partially washed-away roads and overturned cars after the waters had receded.
Seven people died last weekend from a mountain torrent in southwestern China’s Sichuan province.
Elsewhere in Sichuan and other provinces, crops are wilting and factories have been shut down as a drought cut hydropower supplies and high temperatures raised electricity demand.
Authorities in three provinces shot rockets into the sky in recent days to “seed” clouds with agents to try to induce them to produce more rain, according to Chinese media and government reports.