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In this photo distributed by the Xinhua news agency, people row boats for transportation along a street in Rongshui County on Friday. ((Xinhua/Associated Press))

At least 16 people have died and more than 320,000 have evacuated homes in southern and central China after heavy rains toppled houses, flooded roads and damaged a dam.

In the central province of Hunan, floods have killed eight people and forced 140,000 to relocate since rain began pounding the region on Wednesday, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Five people have died in southeastern Fujian province, two others are missing and 22,000 people have been evacuated, Xinhua said Saturday.

Another three people died and four were missing in Jiangxi province of the Guangxi region. Another 80,000 people were forced from their homes.

Rains caused 287 rural houses in Guangxi to topple and inundated Rongshui county causing the Rongjiang River to overflow its banks.

More than 70,000 people in the region have been moved, the news agency said.

The county government estimated damage at 210 million yuan ($36 million Cdn).

Dike destroyed

Floodwaters along a major commercial thoroughfare in Rongshui were more than 2.5 metres deep, a CCTV report said Sunday. It said it was the highest water level the county has seen in a decade.

The signboards of restaurants and shops along the street were all that could be seen above the water. Mattresses, household items and other debris drifted in the water, passing residents on wooden rowboats as people peered out from second-floor balconies and windows.

The rain destroyed a 13-metre section of a dike near the base of the Kama Reservoir in Guangxi, Xinhua said.

About 15,000 people who lived downstream from the dam were moved to safety and are now living in more than 1,000 tents, the national flood control office said Saturday.

Local authorities were distributing relief materials and trying to reinforce the reservoir dam, it said.