Millions Affected By Floods In Eastern China

An estimated five million people have been affected by torrential rain, mudslides and flooding in eastern China, local authorities have said.

Large areas of Hubei and Zhejiang provinces in particular are mostly underwater.

The flooding has pushed food prices up and led to a vast number of residents being displaced.

So far 180 people have died this month or are missing in the area - and that figure is expected to rise, according to the official Xinhua News Agency .

The latest downpour - thought to be the worst in 20 years - triggered a mudslide that buried houses and killed two people in Zhejiang's Changshan county.

Prices for green vegetables were up 40%, adding to an inflation rate of 5.5% - a three-year high.

Two more people were killed and two left missing by flooding in Hubei, Xinhua said. The farmers they interviewed said it was the worst flooding in 20 years.

More than one million acres (432,200 hectares) of farmland has been inundated - though forecasters predicted that Monday would be drier.

Almost 1,000 businesses have been forced to suspend operations and 5.7 million people have had their lives disrupted, Xinhua claimed.

More than 7,000 homes collapsed or were otherwise damaged and direct financial damage was estimated at almost six billion Yuan (£577m).

The flooding has reduced vegetable output by 20% and also caused shortages of fruits and grains.

On Sunday, a senior official warned a critical point had been reached in battling seasonal floods.

Heavy rain pounded Zhejiang over the weekend and the level of a river that passes through Lanxi city has risen sharply, said Zhao Fayuan, deputy director of the flood control headquarters.

The level of Lanjiang river has now hit 110 feet (34 metres), the highest since 1966, state-run Xinhua said.

Meanwhile more than 40 miles (70 kilometres) of nearby dykes are close to overflowing, the country's flood authority said.

It is likely that more frequent and more intense downpours will continue, Chen Lei, China's minister for water resources, told a meeting in Beijing to discuss flood-control measures.

However, while the deadly flooding continues, a persistent drought is still plaguing five provinces in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River.

It has left 630,000 people without safe drinking water and affected 11.9 million acres (4.8 million hectares) of farmland, Mr Chen said.