16 Dead, 18 Missing In Flash Flood In Western China

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An excavator tries to clear mud from an area in the aftermath of flooding in Datong county in western China
China is facing heavy rains and flooding in some parts of the country this summer and extreme heat and drought in other regions.

A sudden rainstorm in western China triggered a landslide that diverted a river and caused flash flooding in populated areas, killing at least 16 people and leaving 18 others missing, Chinese state media said Thursday.

Rescuers, who earlier reported 36 people missing, had found 18 of them by early afternoon, state broadcaster CCTV said in an online update. The Wednesday night disaster affected more than 6,000 people in six villages in Qinghai province, CCTV said.

China is facing heavy rains and flooding in some parts of the country this summer and extreme heat and drought in other regions. State media have described the prolonged heat and drought as the worst since record keeping started 60 years ago.

Emergency authorities described the flash flooding in Qinghai's Datong county as a "mountain torrent." Such torrents generally result from heavy squalls in mountainous areas. Water running down the mountain can turn gullies or streams into raging rivers, catching people by surprise.

Video posted by the Beijing News website showed muddy water rushing down a wide street at night and debris-strewn areas with uprooted trees, partially washed-away roads and overturned cars after the waters had receded.

Seven people died last weekend from a mountain torrent in southwestern China's Sichuan province.

Elsewhere in Sichuan and other provinces, crops are wilting and factories have been shut down as a drought cut hydropower supplies and high temperatures raised demand for electricity to run air conditioners.

Tesla Ltd. and SAIC, one of China's biggest state-owned automakers, suspended production at factories in Shanghai due to a lack of components from 16 suppliers in Sichuan that shut down, the Shanghai Economic and Information Industry Committee said in a letter released Thursday.

The Shanghai committee appealed to its counterpart in Sichuan to make sure auto components factories have adequate power during daytime working hours to avoid supply disruptions.

Authorities in three provinces shot rockets into the sky in recent days to "seed" clouds with agents to try to induce them to produce more rain, according to Chinese media and government reports.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.