Beijing: After droughts, it is now the turn of floods in China, wreaking havoc in major agricultural provinces that left at least 50 people dead and 40 missing.

The deluge follows a prolonged drought in central and southern provinces that caused a severe water crisis and destroyed thousands of hectares of crops.

In the worst-hit Hubei province, at least 23 people were killed and 10 missing, said Zhang, a spokesman with the provincial flood control and drought relief headquarters.

"Most of the deaths and injuries were caused by collapsing buildings," a daily quoted the official as saying.

Some 60,000 residents in the submerged Tongcheng County have been relocated by late Friday, he added.

He said floods have affected 680,000 people and inundated over 630 sq km of farmlands in Hubei alone. Direct economic loss could reach 610 million yuan ($94 million), he said.

In Tongcheng, a record 300 mm of rain fell in just four hours on Thursday, inundating the entire county. However, the waters retreated by late Friday.

"Floodwaters quickly rose to my chest and pushed the grocery store in front of my home about five meters forward," a villager was quoted as saying by China Central Television.

Traffic, electricity and telephone services that were cut in Tongcheng due to floods, resumed by late Friday.

Three provinces adjoining Hubei were cut off after floodwaters submerged a national highway in Chongyang County.

In neighbouring Hunan province, at least 19 people were killed and 28 missing in floods. Some 1.4 million people in 19 counties of the province were affected.

About 26,000 people were evacuated in Jiangxi province where three people, including a child, died after landslides crushed their homes, Xinhua reported. Three more people were killed in the southwestern Guizhou province.

Meanwhile, South China's Guangdong province is bracing for a major tropical storm over the weekend. As a result, landslides may occur in Guangdong and Fujian provinces, weather officials predict.

The National Meteorological Centre has issued a blue rainstorm alert, the lightest in the country's four-level rainstorm alert system.

Chief weatherman with the centre, Lin Jian, has attributed the sudden shift from drought to downpours to the interruption of the monsoon.

The flooding will not adversely affect the country's grain production, Mao Liuxi, an agricultural expert with the centre; said, adding high temperatures in the south later this year would ensure normal production.

(Agencies)