China’s massive floods move east, battering communities along Yangtze River

Viola Zhou
·4-min read

After weeks of intense seasonal flooding in southwestern and central China, torrential rains have caused more floods along the Yangtze River, with nearly 300,000 people evacuated in the eastern provinces of Anhui and Jiangxi as homes have been destroyed, roads paralysed and many left stranded without food or electricity.

More than 2,000 homes were damaged by the latest floodwaters, forcing the evacuation of 147,000 people by Tuesday in Anhui, after a week of heavy rainstorms on the country’s eastern coast. In neighbouring Jiangxi, more than 151,000 people were evacuated, with nearly 2,000 houses damaged, between Monday and Wednesday, according to state news agency Xinhua.

The seasonal floodwaters first hit the regions of Sichuan and Chongqing in the southwest and Hubei in central China in late June, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and damaging more than 10,000 houses. The unusually heavy floods have presented an additional challenge to many in areas already struggling with lost income and jobs caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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A submerged riverside pavilion in Wuhan, just months after the central Chinese city was devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: EPA-EFE
A submerged riverside pavilion in Wuhan, just months after the central Chinese city was devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: EPA-EFE

On Thursday, China’s National Meteorological Centre warned of more downpours in southern parts of the country in coming days.

Hundreds of rescuers have been deployed in the latest areas to be hit by the extreme weather, organising evacuations and handing out supplies. Despite the relief effort, some are still waiting for help. Among them is Ruji, a resident of Xiejiatan town in the eastern province of Jiangxi.

Floodwaters which submerged the ground floor of Ruji’s home have been slowly retreating since the rain stopped on Thursday, but the family still had no access to fresh food, clean water or electricity, she told the South China Morning Post. Three power banks were all she had to keep her mobile phone connected.

“We didn’t store any meat at home, and our garden was flooded,” she said, adding the family had been living on packaged food. “We have no vegetables to eat.”

Ruji said roads had been inundated, with waters rising as high as an adult, and most of the rice paddies – which had been almost ready for harvest – were also under water.

Videos on social media in recent days have shown three-storey houses collapsing, furniture floating in muddy waters, and firefighters carrying residents to safety from the windows of their flats.

The floods have also disrupted China’s annual national college entrance exam, the gaokao, which had already been delayed by a month because of the coronavirus. University enrolment is based solely on the results of the gruelling test and 10 million students have spent more than 10 years preparing for it.

Some students were seen trying to travel by kayak to the rescheduled exam on Tuesday. In Anhui province’s Shexian county, most students were unable to attend because of the flooding, with authorities holding a make-up session on Thursday with a new set of exam papers.

Flooding disrupts the lives of millions along the Yangtze every few years and the country has invested heavily in flood control measures – underpinned by the Three Gorges Dam – for the river since more than 3,000 people were killed in 1998.

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