China is bracing itself for what could be its worst flooding in 12 years, as heavy rain causes rivers to burst their banks.  And, worsening weather conditions are expected, in the next 48 hours.  Rain storms in recent days have already claimed 43 lives and left 40 other people missing. Damage to property is running into millions of dollars.

Rain continues to batter the upper and middle reaches of the Yangtze River.  And, approaching typhoon Conson - which is expected to batter the south of the country once its makes landfall - is expected to push flood defenses to the brink.

Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have ordered local governments to step up flood relief efforts. They have called on officials to evacuate those threatened by the rising water levels.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang says 16 million people have affected.

Qin says the authorities are fighting hard to prevent the floods claiming more lives and more damage.

He says visitors to China during the height of the tourism season should be aware of the volatile weather and pay attention to their personal safety.

Many of those missing in the storms are believed to have vanished under landslides.

The military has been drafted to shore up flood defenses and help with rescue efforts.

Yangtze floods in 1998 killed more than 4,000 people, forced the evacuation of more than 18 million others and caused $37 billion in damage.