After coronavirus, flooding hits southern China with 14 million affected

Linda Lew

Weeks of torrential rain and heavy flooding in southern China have affected 14 million people and caused economic losses of around 27.8 billion yuan (US$3.8 billion).

The Ministry of Emergency Management said 744,000 people across 26 provinces and cities had been displaced, with 81 missing or dead, and more than 10,000 houses had collapsed.

Separately, authorities in the southwestern province of Sichuan reported three people dead and 12 missing on Saturday after overnight rainstorms in Mianning county. In one incident, two vehicles fell into a river, killing two people and leaving three others unaccounted for.

China is experiencing an unusually intense flood season this year, with rainstorm alerts issued for 26 consecutive days in June, according to state news agency Xinhua.

An aerial photo of Guilin City taken on June 9 shows the Lijiang River in flood after continuous torrential rain. Photo: Xinhua

“In the 20-odd days since June, the water levels of 197 rivers have overflowed the warning mark, 10 of which were at historic levels. This concentrated occurrence of flooding is rare for recent years,” Liu Zhiyu, deputy director of the water resources ministry’s hydrological forecast centre, told Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily on June 25.

In the southwestern municipality of Chongqing, a red alert was raised on June 22 for the Qi River – the first time the highest level flood warning had been issued since the city’s hydrology monitoring system was built 80 years ago, People’s Daily reported.

A Chongqing tea house owner, surnamed Qin, uploaded a video to Chinese social media which showed the entire ground floor of his shop flooded with muddy water. “When I woke up in the morning, I saw the water had broken through the glass door,” he said in a Pear Video report.

Qin – who said the floods did not faze him much after surviving the Covid-19 pandemic – found “all our sofas and equipment were floating about. I wanted to go down and swim to retrieve some things but gave up when I couldn’t do it.”

Hubei province, which saw the worst of the new coronavirus outbreak in China, was also on alert for heavy storms and flooding. Cities such as Yichang saw streets submerged and electric motorcycles carried off by the floodwaters, according to news magazine Caixin.

In the Hubei city of Huanggang, village official Liu Shuicun, 58, was swept away by floodwaters on June 21 when he fell into the river while doing relief work. Rescue teams were still searching for Liu as of June 23, Hubei Television reported.

The National Climate Centre said the extreme weather patterns were due to a weak El Nino effect that began in November last year, according to People’s Daily, and is expected to continue affecting southwestern China and the downstream region of the Yangtze River.

El Nino is a climate cycle that begins in the Pacific Ocean and can trigger weather patterns including rains, storms or droughts in other parts of the world, months after it forms.

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