Beijing - Flooding and heavy rain in southern China have forced 550,000 people to evacuate their homes and killed at least 15, Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday.

The heavy rains that have raged for four days across southern provinces have destroyed houses, flooded crops, cut power, damaged roads and caused rivers to overflow.

Worst hit was Guangxi, where 285,800 people were moved out of their homes. Parts of the region were experiencing the worst flooding since 1996.

Workers dug sluices to relieve pressure on the Kama reservoir dam in Guangxi's Luocheng county, where a 13.5 metre (44 ft) section gave way under the weight of the water on Saturday.

Chen Zhangliang, vice chairman of Guangxi region, said the sluices should alleviate the danger from the dam in a few days.

Crops on 103,400 hectares were damaged and 3,600 homes had collapsed by 11:40 (0340 GMT) on Sunday, with total damage in Guangxi estimated at 1.34 billion yuan ($196.5 million), Xinhua said, citing the regional civil affairs department.

The rain also flooded 62 schools in Guangxi, where 300 students were trapped in one boarding school alone. Local authorities had managed to restore power supplies and deliver food and drinking water.

After four days of torrential downpours, the rain began to subside in some parts of Guangxi on Sunday, but local authorities warned of more flooding as river levels remained high.