BEIJING (AP) – Tropical storm Bilis killed at least 115 people and injured hundreds as it pounded China’s southeast, toppling houses and forcing the evacuation of a prison and thousands of villages, reports said Sunday.

Thousands were stranded by high water after Bilis slammed into the coast Friday with a drenching rain, flooding farms and damaging roads and railways. Scores of people were reported missing.

Hardest-hit was coastal province of Fujian, with 43 deaths, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, without saying how the deaths occurred.

It said 39 people were killed in inland Hunan province and 33 in Guangdong, a densely populated financial hub in the south, near Hong Kong. It reported 349 people injured in Hunan and 12,000 stranded, while 31,400 houses collapsed and 91,200 acres of crops were ruined.

In Lechang, a city in Hunan, water was 10 feet deep in some places, forcing authorities to move 1,663 inmates from a prison to higher ground, Xinhua said.

Losses in the neighboring coastal provinces of Zhejiang and Fujian were estimated at $140 million, Xinhua said. It didn’t give figures for Hunan or Guangdong, a center for China’s export-driven manufacturing industries.

Rising water damaged the main railway line linking Beijing with Guangzhou, causing delays for thousands of travelers on the busy route.

A Russian vessel sank off China’s coast during the storm, but the 11-member crew was rescued, Xinhua said.

China evacuated more than 250,000 fishermen and others from coastal areas and canceled airline flights ahead of the storm.

Bilis weakened from a typhoon to a tropical storm early Friday after lashing Taiwan.

China is hit repeatedly by typhoons every summer and suffers hundreds of rain deaths. The country expects to see more storms than usual this year due to an unusually warm current off its Pacific coast and high temperatures over the Tibetan plateau.

At least 349 people died in China in June due to flooding, landslides and other weather-related disasters, with another 99 people missing, the government says. Damage was estimated at $2.5 billion.

AP-ES-07-16-06 1019EDT

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