The death toll from days of torrential rain in one of the worst-hit areas in southern China jumped to 38 from nine on Friday, Chinese state television CCTV reported.

Downpours this week in Meizhou city in Guangdong province led to flash floods and mudslides that destroyed thousands of low-rise houses, damaged roads and crops, and disrupted communications and power supplies.

Two people remain missing in Meizhou's Pingyuan county, CCTV said.

Southern China has been battered by an unusual amount of rains in recent days following an earlier than normal start to the annual flooding season.

Accumulated precipitation in Pingyuan has reached 1,221.6 millimetres (4 ft) since April 4, more than double the normal amount in the same period of previous years, CCTV said.

Deaths during China's annual summer floods have fallen sharply from the thousands each year in the 1990s, as authorities beefed up flood control measures such as dams.

Yet extreme weather in recent years, including record-breaking rainfall, has made China vulnerable to intense flooding and disasters such as sudden mudslides, often in its mountainous but populated areas.

The task of controlling floods in China is becoming increasingly arduous, President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday, calling for all-out efforts to safeguard lives and property as powerful storms pounded China's southern provinces. China's National meteorological Center said on Friday a typhoon could form over the weekend and affect coastal areas in the country's south.

Natural disasters, including floods, droughts, an earthquake and freezing weather in China caused direct economic losses of 23.76 billion yuan ($3.27 billion) in the first quarter. ($1 = 7.2606 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Ethan Wang, Ella Cao and Ryan Woo; Editing by Alison Williams)