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Ancient town under water as downpours hit central China

Fenghuang district in Hunan province, one of China's renowned ancient towns, was under water Wednesday as heavy rain hit the centre of the country, with tens of thousands of people evacuated from the area.

BEIJING: One of China's renowned ancient towns was under water Wednesday as heavy rain hit the centre of the country, with tens of thousands of people evacuated from the area.

The old town district of Fenghuang nestles on the banks of a winding river in a picturesque, mountainous part of Hunan province, and boasts stunning Qing and Ming dynasty architecture dating back hundreds of years.

It can attract 30,000 visitors a day and has applied for world heritage status recognition from UNESCO, but pictures showed it inundated, with the central span of a bridge poking up through the waters.

Reports said electricity had been cut off and more than 120,000 tourists and locals had been evacuated from Fenghuang and the surrounding county.

According to China's official Xinhua news agency, the Tuojiang river in the town had reached 1.1 metres above its previous highest recorded level, and several bridges had been damaged or destroyed.

More than 1,200 rescuers were working Wednesday to evacuate residents and tourists, according to Xinhua, and some 4,000 shops had been affected, with water flooding into hotels, bars and restaurants.

More than 40 trains were cancelled, it added, citing the Guangzhou Railway Corporation.

"Torrential downpours have led to Fenghuang old town becoming a water town," said a posting on a discussion page on the topic set up on Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter.

Central and southern China are regularly hit by powerful storms in the spring and summer months.

At least 14 people were killed in flooding in Hunan and the neighbouring province of Jiangxi and region of Guangxi last month, Xinhua reported.

In May, three people were killed and thousands evacuated after several days of rainstorms in southern China, flooding major cities and affecting air and rail transport.

An earlier round of rain and hail storms triggered flooding and landslides in the region that killed at least 16 people in March.

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