China crocodiles
Workers tried to recapture the crocodiles after they escaped slaughter in south east China (Reuters)

A village in southeast China is facing a crocodile invasion after dozens escaped from a slaughterhouse during a flood.

It is not known how many crocodiles are on the loose but farm workers said dozens have fled into flooded rivers and swamps.

Villagers living near the city of Shantou, Guangdong province, were scared, reported the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Zhou Minghui, general manager of Shantou Xiesheng Breeding Co, which runs the crocodile farm, said: "Runaway crocodiles are very dangerous. We are very nervous that they may hurt people."

The farm, which covers 11 hectacres, raises thousands of crocodiles for slaughter ever year. Crocodile meat is consumed for its alleged health benefits and is considered a delicacy in parts of southern China.

Zhou said there were 14,300 crocodiles on the farm. They can grow up to three metres long.

China’s Guangdong and Guangxi provinces have been badly affected by Typhoon Utor (Reuters)

Police and villagers have been hunting the missing reptiles since floodwaters smashed through their enclosure and set them free.

The walls of their compound collapsed in the floods caused by Typhoon Utor, media official Chen Chuken said.

"The water level rose very quickly and the flow of water destroyed the wall," Zhou told the Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper. "We have reported the situation to the police and the flood control and disaster relief authority. The local government has organised 20 workers to capture the escaped crocodiles."

Government officials said no one had yet been harmed by the crocodiles. Twenty have been recaptured but at least four more are believed to still be at large.

A local resident, known only as Huang, said: "Some people saw crocodiles resting or swimming in the flooded river. We are so scared."

Typhoon Utor caused the worst floods in Guangdong and Guangxi provinces for decades. Two hundred people were reported missing or dead in the resulting landslides and floods.