Heavy downpours and widespread flooding in the south have claimed at least 169 lives, left 52 missing, toppled at least 125,000 houses and forced 1.27 million people to leave their homes, media reported yesterday. An expert from the China Meteorological Administration told the official China News Service that more than 1 million sq km in 15 provinces and autonomous regions had been affected by 20 days of rainstorms. Guangdong was one of the worst-hit regions, with at least 20 people dead, eight missing and 5.76 million in 17 cities affected, Xinhua said. Water levels in the province's Bei and Xi rivers had approached the flooding stage on Sunday, threatening thousands of people living in the Pearl River Delta. The two rivers merged at, and passed through, Sanshui at the highest rate of flow in 50 years, but no widespread destruction was reported yesterday. But buildings in several towns, including Datang in Sanshui, have been submerged by the floods, leaving only their rooftops showing above the water. Some elderly people and children were trapped in a three-storey house. In Yongzhou in neighbouring Hunan province , nearly 2 million people were affected by the most serious flooding in 30 years. Guangxi was another hard-hit region, with 7.5 million people affected. Yangshuo , one of the best-known scenic spots near Guilin , was engulfed by the worst flooding in 54 years.