Heavy rains, floods inundate China; Hunan province sees record rain, thousands evacuated

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese weather forecasters on Monday warned several provinces to expect torrential rain and flash floods over the next two days as unrelenting downpours wreak havoc on the country.

More than three thousand people were evacuated in northwestern Hunan province over the weekend as heavy rain was unleashed on Sangzhi, Shimen and Yongshun counties, and Zhangjiajie City, according to state media.

Sangzhi recorded the heaviest rainfall this year, with maximum precipitation reaching 256 mm (10.07 inches) overnight from Saturday to Sunday, according to state broadcaster China Central Television.

It was the most extensive and widespread rain in Sangzhi since 1998, CCTV said.

China has been gripped by weeks of rains and floods amid an unusually wet summer. In late July, storms from Typhoon Dokusri caused record rains to hit China in over a decade, with Beijing experiencing its heaviest rainfall in 140 years.

China's government has called for more precautions against flooding as Typhoon Saola now makes it way across the South China Sea, with forecasts expecting it to land at Guangdong province as early as this Friday.

China's State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters and the Ministry of Emergency Management organised a video conference this past Saturday, warning that heavy rainfall in many parts of the country may cause geological disasters including mountain torrents and floods in some small and medium-sized rivers, state media People's Daily reported.

There is also uncertainty over Typhoon Saola's path, said China Meteorological Administration, but it will bring heavy rainfall in the coastal areas including Fujian and Zhejiang provinces from Wednesday to Friday.

Fujian has launched an emergency response to Saola, ordering fishing boats in some waters to return to harbours in the vicinity and all personnel on board to evacuate ashore by Wednesday noon, local media reported on Monday.

(Reporting by Bernard Orr and Ethan Wang; Editing by Michael Perry)