Flooding has killed more than 500 people and forced the relocation of 2.29 million Summer flooding has killed 569 people so far this year and forced the emergency relocation of 2.29 million, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said yesterday. At the end of last week, more than 505,000 houses had collapsed, with 1.33 million damaged, at a cost of 39.87 billion yuan (HK$37.5 billion). The report said torrential rain started hitting southern China in May, covering Jiangxi, Fujian, Hunan, northern parts of Guangdong, northeastern parts of Guangxi and southeastern parts of Guizhou. Since mid-June, persistent heavy rains have hit areas along the Huai river in Anhui, Henan and Jiangsu provinces, causing severe flooding which also inundated Hubei and Hunan provinces in central China. Landslides had also caused casualties in rural parts of Guizhou province and Chongqing municipality. Flooding since mid-June in 11 provinces alone had killed 261 people, hospitalised 45,000 and forced the relocation of 1.97 million. More than 415,000 houses collapsed and 1.05 million houses were damaged, the report said. The water levels along the Huai river in central and eastern China have reached their highest in 12 years. Yesterday, officials decided to open sluice gates to divert floodwater into the Chengdong lake floodwater storage zone at Zhengyang Guan - the ninth flood-water storage zone along the Huai river in Anhui province that had been used to contain the severe flood, Xinhua reported. Before the floodwater was diverted, nearly 110,000 residents were evacuated from the floodwater zone at Zhengyang Guan. The report said the flood disaster this year had caused more deaths and damage than last year, but were not as bad as the floods of 1991 and 1998. Ma Jun, a water expert at Beijing-based environmental consultant Sinosphere, said diversions of the floods at a relatively early stage had limited the extent of damage. 'If these measures hadn't been taken, the disaster would have been much greater,' he said. Authorities opened the sluice gates at Wangjiaba early this month - for the first time in 12 years - when floodwaters exceeded the alert level by as much as 2.7 metres. Although the total rainfall has not risen above the levels of 1991, rainfalls detected in parts of Anhui and Henan provinces have exceeded those levels. According to the deputy head of the China Meteorological Administration, Jiao Meiyan, heavy and persistent rains since late last month had contributed mainly to the flooding. Mr Jiao said the rainfall was caused by the unstable warm airstream from the Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, which converged around the Huai river area. The China Meteorological Administration predicts there will be more heavy rains in the Huai river area until tomorrow, after which the rain will move north to Henan and Shandong provinces as well as the southern parts of Hebei and Shanxi provinces. The meteorological authority yesterday issued a heavy rain warning for the Huai river region to Chongqing and the north of Guizhou province for the weekend.