Soldiers scrambled to shore up soggy levies with sandbags yesterday in southern China as forecasters warned that more heavy rain in the northern region could trigger flooding on the Yellow River, the country's second-longest.

At least 63 people have died and 13 are missing in this month's rain-driven flooding, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said in a statement yesterday. China's overall flood death toll for the year stood at 171 in 20 provinces and regions.

The high waters began receding in several parts of the south that have been hit almost daily by heavy rain during the past three weeks. About a million hectares of farmland have been swamped and a total of 1.66 million people evacuated, the ministry said.

About 67,000 houses are destroyed, crops damaged on 1.02 million hectares of farms and direct economic losses total 14.45 billion yuan (US$2.09 billion).

Downpours and floods have ravaged the provinces of Zhejiang, Anhui, Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan, Guangdong, Guizhou and Yunnan and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region since June 6, with some areas getting the most rain in 100 years.

Guangxi, Guangdong, Hunan and Jiangxi were worst-hit, the ministry said.

The central government allocated 95 million yuan to Guangxi and Jiangxi as a disaster relief fund yesterday to help meet people's daily needs. About 3,000 tents have been sent to Guangxi.

Days of heavy rain have driven up water levels of last week's major flood, threatening thousands in the Zhuang autonomous region, Guangxi officials said.

As of yesterday, about 7,000 people had been evacuated without casualties in Longtou Village of Yizhou Cityin Guangxi, said Lu Zhanhong, Yizhou municipal government deputy director of public relations.

There was a break in the rain yesterday, but the water level of the flood, which hit last Thursday and submerged parts of the village, rose 1.7 meters as of 8am on Monday. The deepest point was 8.7 meters, Lu said.

The flood, when it hit, led to about 15,000 evacuations, while transport was shut down by mud-rock flows.

In Zhejiang Province, the Sanbao lock on the Hangzhou Canal to the Qiantang River closed again at 11am yesterday, after having been open for just one day, leaving more than 1,000 vessels stranded. The lock had been closed for six days, said Zhu Jianlin, an official with the administrative bureau of the lock.

Another 50 millimeters of rain over a large area of Zhejiang has been forecast.

The rain has raised many rivers, including the Qiantang. Hangzhou, the provincial capital, and several other cities have experienced floods.

In Fujian Province, rain is predicted to fall for another three days, and 24-hour totals could reach between 50 and 100 millimeters in most cities.