Landslides and flooding triggered by heavy rain have killed at least 96 people and left an estimated 2,000 missing in the northwestern Chinese province of Gansu, as destruction mounts from the country’s worst flooding in a decade.

Worst hit was the county seat of Zhouqu in the province’s Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, with the official Xinhua News Agency reporting half of it under water. Many houses collapsed and streets were covered with a yard of mud and water after the early morning landslides, it said.

State broadcaster China Central Television said the death toll in the province was more than 96, with about 2,000 people missing. Power was cut in some of the affected areas in the southern part of the province, and it was not known how many of the missing were in danger or simply out of contact.

Xinhua quoted the head of Zhouqu county, Diemujiangteng, as saying the landslides happened after heavy rains lashed the country late Saturday and a river overflowed.

“Now the sludge (thick mud) has became the biggest problem to rescue operations. It’s too thick to walk or drive through,” he was quoted as saying.

CCTV said 45,000 people had been evacuated. It showed pictures of flooded streets and cars that had been washed away.

Xinhua said Premier Wen Jiabao was on his way to the disaster area.

The Lanzhou Military Area Command in the capital of the province dispatched 2,400 soldiers to help with rescue efforts.

Around China, the country’s worst flooding in a decade has killed more than 1,100 people this year, with more than 600 still missing. The floods have caused tens of billions of dollars in damage across 28 provinces and regions.

Overall this year, about 875,000 homes have been destroyed, 9.61 million people evacuated, and 22 million acres (8.76 million hectares) of crops ruined, according to the government’s flood control office.

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