Heavy rainstorms along with lightning and hail since last week have hit many parts of China, killing nearly 50 people, destroying farmland and sweeping away houses.

On Monday afternoon, lightning killed five people building a tomb in Zhejiang. Altogether 48 people have died and 12 are missing after a week of heavy rains and thunderstorms that swept up the Yangtze River valley and across southern China.

Nearly 10,000 people were evacuated, thousands of houses collapsed and thousands of acres of farmland were destroyed, according to a report on the central government's Web site (www.gov.cn).

Lightning was the main cause of death, claiming 37 of the victims. In Jiangxi on Sunday, lightning struck 12 farmers while they were working in the fields, and a grandmother and grandson were killed when they sought shelter from rain under a corrugated iron roof, the Xinhua news agency said.

Two urban residents in the province also died from lightning strikes while huddling together underneath a tree, it added.

The months from May to September are flood season in central and southern China as torrential rains, typhoons, tropical storms and lightning hit densely populated areas.

In the summer of 1998, deforestation contributed to heavy flooding along the Yangtze and in northeastern China. Some forecasters have said that this summer shares the same conditions of heavy snowmelt and hot weather.

"Should a flood as serious as 1998 happen, the pressure for inflation will be strengthened in the near term, but (is) unlikely to change the underlying inflation trend," JP Morgan analysts Grace Ng and Qian Wang said in a research report on Tuesday, that examined the potential loss of grains output and impact on prices.