Victims of this week's severe flooding in southern China in the wake of Typhoon Utor said government and emergency services failed to respond to their distress calls after their district was engulfed by floodwaters up to three meters (nearly 10 feet) deep.
"The water level has risen to two, three meters," said one resident of Chendian township in Guangdong's coastal city of Shantou. "Everything is underwater now; not a single building is left."
"We have made a lot of phone calls, but the town mayor isn't picking up his phone, nor the deputy town mayor surnamed Chen, nor the [Chendian township official] surnamed Lin," said the resident, who gave only his surname, Li.
"We can't get through on the emergency help line," he said. "We got through to [emergency services on] 110, but no one came."
"Our village has been drowned, but the government hasn't sent any boats," Li said.
He said many traditional one-story buildings had been drowned, so it was hard to imagine how their occupants had escaped the rising waters.
"The old buildings are all underwater, and I don't know where the people are," Li said. "There were several hundred people living over there."
Repeated calls to the Chendian emergency helpline went unanswered on Monday, while calls to the Chendian mayor, his deputy, and Communist Party secretary Lin resulted in a message saying their cell phones were switched off.
Calls to an emergency number for nearby Shantou city resulted in an error signal.
Rescue teams 'dispatched'
An employee who answered the phone at the Guangdong provincial disaster help line said rescue work was under way in the district that administers Chendian.
"That includes Chaonan and Chaoyang [districts of Shantou]," the employee said.
"The local government has already dispatched rescue teams and inflatable craft to the scene."
Meanwhile, residents of Simapu township, also in Chaonan district, told RFA that residents there were also in desperate need of help.
"No one has sent us any food or water so far," one resident who declined to be named said in an interview on Monday.
"The officials came [on Sunday] with a video camera to take a look," he said. "Then they told us to swim out and buy a case of instant noodles to bring back with us."
"Then they left. Some more people [who came on Monday] also just took a look and then left," he added.
Water, medical supplies needed
A Shantou resident surnamed Cai who volunteered for the relief effort on Monday said he hadn't seen much sign of government involvement, either.
"I don't know if higher levels ordered them to come, or if they came, or what," he said. "We are just relying on ourselves to help ourselves."
"Right now, we lack water and dried grain, as well as medical supplies," Cai said.
Meanwhile, a third flood victim from Chendian township said there weren't enough people helping out with the rescue effort.
"My sister is trapped inside [a factory], and they haven't been rescued yet," she said.
"The rescue teams are here, but there are many places affected, so they haven't been able to rescue everyone."
"We are sending out information on microblogs," she added.
Rising death toll
The death toll from devastating floods at opposite ends of China following torrential rains and the aftermath of a typhoon rose to more than 130, official media said on Tuesday.
China's ministry of civil affairs said at least 49 people had died in Hunan, central China, and in the southern provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi, where flooding has destroyed homes and sent rivers of mud flowing into city streets.
In Guangdong alone, 28 people have been confirmed dead and 10 missing, ministry figures showed on Tuesday.
Transport links in the densely populated province were severely hit, affecting tens of thousands of travelers.
Meanwhile, flooding in the northeast, which has been described as the worst there in decades, has killed 85 people and left 102 missing in recent days, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Photos posted online showed corpses floating in water or stuck in flood debris, sparking a public outcry.
Many Internet users posted microblog comments accusing the media of only reporting on the suspension of the Guangdong-Beijing railway service because of a landslide and "completely ignoring the local disaster," Hong Kong's Apple Daily newspaper reported on Tuesday.
They also complain that rescue teams have not arrived at many disaster scenes and have left stranded citizens to fend for themselves, it said.
Photos also showed desperate residents scrambling to escape the floods by means of makeshift rafts and paddling pools, while others climbed trees or clung to other structures to avoid being swept away.
Some 80,000 passengers were left stranded at the hugely busy Guangzhou railway station after all trains were suspended due to rain and landslides at the weekend.
Services began to resume on Monday, reports said.
According to the official news agency Xinhua, more than 3,000 People's Liberation Army troops have been mobilized across all three rescue operations.
State media referred only to "spreading rumors" about the floods, however.
"Disaster response mechanisms are in all parts of China and they are in operation," the Global Times, a paper with close links to the ruling Communist Party, said in an editorial on Tuesday.
"But public satisfaction is not high enough, criticism is rising everywhere, and many rumors surrounding the flood are also spreading online," the paper said.
Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service and by Bi Zimu for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.