(Edited from China Daily, Beijing) Torrential rains and floods, the worst in a decade, have claimed the lives of 701 people and left 347 missing in China since the beginning of the year, according to government figures Wednesday.

Floods had hit 27 provinces and municipalities, affected 110 million people and forced the evacuation of 8.06 million of them, the figures from the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters and the Ministry of Civil Affairs show.

(Edited from China Daily, Beijing) Torrential rains and floods, the worst in a decade, have claimed the lives of 701 people and left 347 missing in China since the beginning of the year, according to government figures Wednesday.

Floods had hit 27 provinces and municipalities, affected 110 million people and forced the evacuation of 8.06 million of them, the figures from the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters and the Ministry of Civil Affairs show.

They also affected more than 7 million hectares of farmland and toppled 645,000 houses. Direct economic losses had reached 142.2 billion yuan ($20.88 billion), Liu Ning, vice minister of Water Resources and secretary general of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, said at a press conference Wednesday.

Since the beginning of April when the flood season started, more than 230 rivers have seen water levels pass the danger mark. Some areas along the Yangtze River even experienced the worst flooding in 30 years.

The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River had recently buffered the worst flood in decades, blocking more than 40 percent of the water.

(Edited from AP, Beijing) On the other hand, China’s largest reported oil spill emptied beaches along the Yellow Sea as its size doubled Wednesday, while cleanup efforts included straw mats and frazzled workers with little more than rubber gloves.

An official warned the spill posed a “severe threat” to sea life and water quality as China’s latest environmental crisis spread off the shores of Dalian, once named China’s most livable city.

One cleanup worker has drowned, his body coated in crude.

“I’ve been to a few bays today and discovered they were almost entirely covered with dark oil,” said Zhong Yu with environmental group Greenpeace China, who spent the day on a boat inspecting the spill.

“The oil is half-solid and half liquid and is as sticky as asphalt,” she told The Associated Press by telephone.

The oil had spread over 165 square miles (430 square kilometers) of water five days since a pipeline at the busy northeastern port exploded, hurting oil shipments from part of China’s strategic oil reserves to the rest of the country. Shipments remained reduced Wednesday.

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