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ZHUJI, China | Fri Jun 17, 2011 6:40am EDT

(Reuters) - China has mobilized troops to help with flood relief and raised its disaster alert to the highest level after days of downpours forced the evacuation of more than half a million people in central and southern provinces.

The official China Daily said more than 555,000 people had been evacuated in seven provinces and a municipality after rains in recently drought-stricken areas caused floods and mudslides in the Yangtze River basin.

Central authorities have raised the disaster alert to the highest level 4, and the government is describing the floods in some areas, such as eastern Zhejiang province's Qianting River area, as the worst since 1955.

Local media said two dykes in the village areas of Zhuji in Zhejiang province were breached on Thursday, flooding two towns and 21 villages.

In the flood-hit Banshan and Moshan villages on the outskirts of Zhuji, hundreds of people had been evacuated, but many have since returned to guard their homes and belongings.

"For us now, we will be worried if we leave our homes. That's why we are still staying here. Yesterday, the water level was receding slowly so we came back to clean up our house," said 49-year-old Jie Jingping.

Jie is staying put in her flooded home with her daughter and elder sister. The first floor of her village home is completely inundated and she has moved all their belongings to the second and third floors.

She said the local government has been distributing a box of instant noodles and a carton of bottled water to every family as flood aid.

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