A massive landslide triggered on Wednesday by one of the worst storms in decades killed at least 18 people and left another 107 missing when it struck a scenic resort in Dujiangyan, Sichuan.
The tragedy happened as storms battered Sichuan and 16 other provinces since Sunday.
By last night, at least 166 people were missing across Sichuan and 31 others were confirmed killed in the storms, which have affected 2.09 million people and resulted in the evacuation of 223,000, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
In the landslide, a hillside collapsed onto holiday cottages, one survivor told Xinhua.
"The noise was like thunder and went on for two or three minutes. My first thought was that I too would be buried," Gao Quanshi, 47, was quoted as saying.
Phone lines were cut, so villagers had to trek to nearby government offices to call for help, he said.
The valley was filled with mud and rocks, with only the tops of trees sticking through. Rescuers worked mostly with hand tools to prevent harming any survivors still trapped beneath.
Parts of Sichuan - that were still reeling from two major earthquakes in 2008 and April this year - saw the heaviest rainfall in half a century, state media reported.
All schools, including the kindergartens and training institutions in Sichuan's capital city of Chengdu were ordered to close yesterday amid threat of flooding, and the Chengdu Education Bureau said classes would not resume until the weather improved.
Sichuan meteorologists yesterday morning cancelled an orange rainstorm warning for the province - the second-strongest warning on a four-colour scale - but warned that torrential rain could hit Deyang and Mianyang in coming days.
Highways from Chengdu to Mianyang were closed yesterday, while roads from Dujiangyan to Yingxiu - both heavily hit by the 2008 earthquake - were cut off by Wednesday's landslide.
All bus services to Aba prefecture, which was also hit hard by the 2008 quake, were suspended.
Three people in the prefecture were reported missing while rescuers scrambled to clear roads to three towns that were isolated by flooding yesterday, Xinhua reported.
Constant heavy rain since Monday had raised water levels in 12 Sichuan rivers above their alert status, state broadcaster CCTV reported, citing the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Office.
In Hongbai, a town that is under the jurisdiction of Shifang and was rebuilt after the quake, rescuers yesterday afternoon reached 215 residents who were stranded by flooding, while more than 3,000 residents in Shifang were evacuated from their homes, the local government said on its microblog.
In Shifang's Majing town, 230 residents were evacuated before a small local river dyke broke.
"Local officials came door to door on Wednesday, warning that the river dyke was about to collapse," resident Liu Shulin said by phone, adding that it collapsed after they left. He said the floodwaters started receding yesterday as the rain let up.More on this: