Heavy rain and floods have claimed 171 lives across China, the China Daily newspaper said on Tuesday, quoting the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters. (VIDEO)

It said the worst storms and floods to hit the country in decades had affected some 38.5 million people in 20 provinces, mostly in the south, with some areas experiencing their heaviest rainfall in 100 years. Around 1.3 million people have been forced to flee their homes.

Some 50 people are also missing and 2.2 million hectares of farmland has been flooded. Estimated economic losses are 26 billion yuan ($3.3 billion).

The China Meteorological Administration (CMA) has warned of the threat of massive floods along the 5,500-km (3415-mile) Yellow River.

Heavy rain in the next few days could "increase the destructive force of floods and make relief and rescue work even more difficult", the CMA said, according to the paper.

The CMA said heavy rain is likely to continue in the Hunan and Guizhou provinces and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region during the next couple of days.