More than 140 people are either dead or missing due to severe floods in several Chinese regions that have affected nearly 38 million people, authorities in Beijing said on Sunday.

"As of July 12, 37.9 million people have been affected as a result of floods in 27 regions, including the provinces of Jiangxi, Anhui, Hubei, and Hunan. 141 people are either dead or missing, and 2.25 million people have been evacuated," a statement by the country's State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters read.

Earlier in the day, the headquarters raised the country's flood response level from level III to level II, the second highest level. Many rivers, including the Yangtze, have swelled following weeks of torrential rain.

The country has raised its national emergency response to the second-highest level as water levels broke records not seen since 1998, when floods killed more than 3,000 people.

On Monday, China's ministry of water resources said flood alerts had been raised for 433 rivers in the country since early June, including 33 where water levels have broken historical records.

Authorities in the eastern province of Jiangxi, one of the worst-hit areas, issued "wartime" measures after the Poyang lake, the largest freshwater lake in China, topped 22.5 metres (74ft), exceeding levels reached in 1998. It has raised its alert level to the highest and evacuated more than 400,000 people. The neighbouring province of Anhui has also been hit by severe floods.

Footage from the worst-hit areas at the weekend showed houses collapsing into muddy floodwaters and residents being pulled from their homes by firefighters on rafts. Last week, students travelled to their national university entrance exam, the gaokao, in kayaks and tractors as well as bathtubs.

Concerns are growing the country will have a repeat of the 1998 floods that affected an estimated fifth of China's population. About 15 million people lost their homes and millions of farmers lost land and crops.

The flooding has destroyed more than 28,000 buildings and the cost of the damage has been estimated at 82.2 billion yuan ($11.7 billion).

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called on the country's citizens to take all necessary precautions to ensure their safety.

Sources: Sputnik, ANI, Guardian