After ordering tens of thousands of residents to abandon their homes, engineers dynamited levees along a stretch of the swollen Yangtze River on Sunday to ease floodwaters menacing cities and farmland in central China.

The dynamiting in Hubei province is the latest effort to relieve pressure on the bulging Yangtze, which has already crested four times in what has been an especially deadly flood season.Soldiers and residents of riverside communities have kept around-the-clock vigils on dikes for weeks, filling cracks above and below the water line.

A China Central Television broadcast Sunday showed soldiers in boats rescuing people from trees and partially submerged homes. Floating bodies were spotted in the countryside around Jiujiang, where dikes burst last week, said photographers who traveled in the area over the weekend.

On Sunday, engineers blew up secondary dikes in Jianli County, about 90 miles upriver from the industrial center of Wuhan, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Firmer primary dikes farther back from the river remain intact.

Police earlier had forced 50,000 residents - many of them "reluctant to move" - out of their homes, Xinhua said. The government has promised that residents affected by flood diversions will be compensated for lost property and crops.

Engineers hope the diversion of up to 28 billion cubic feet of water into miles of farmland behind the dike will lower the raging Yangtze's water level by 4-10 inches, Xinhua reported.

Meanwhile in South Korea, torrential rain subsided Sunday after a four-day deluge that left 165 people dead, including three U.S. soldiers.

The latest casualties included an American soldier who died Sunday, apparently after falling into a flooded ditch at Suwon air base south of Seoul.