china flood.jpg
A picture made available on 21 July 2016 shows a little girl carrying two kettles walking in a flooded road in Tianjin, China, 20 July 2016.
Photograph: EPA/RYAN TONG CHINA OUT

At least 72 people are dead and 78 are missing in China's northern Hebei province, official reports said Saturday, with protesters saying some deaths were caused by the government releasing flood water from a reservoir. 

Residents in Xingtai municipality used social media to report early Saturday that dozens of children and elderly people have died, accusing authorities of failing to adequately inform villagers living downstream from a reservoir. 

The official government mouthpiece People's Daily said that the 9 dead and 11 missing in the region were from 12 villages in Xingtai, and did not mention any reservoir opening.

The People's Daily report attributed the deaths to flooding caused by record rainfall in the area from July 18 to July 21. 

A notice on the official Nanhe County police Weibo microblog on Tuesday said a reservoir in Xingtai would be opened the following day at 3 am (1900 GMT Tuesday). 

"Please inform your friends and relatives ... a reservoir spillway is expected to start at 3:00 am. In order to ensure lives and property of the masses is not threatened, police and village cadres please complete evacuation work before 12:00," the statement said. 

It is unclear whether village officials and police took further steps to warn or evacuate villagers. 

Numerous social media posts containing photographs and videos of clashes between police and protesters that were available to view early Saturday have since been removed.

Across Hebei, authorities have evacuated nearly 300,000 people as the confirmed death toll has climbed, the provincial civil affairs bureau said Saturday.  

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