China’s National Meteorological Center on Monday issued its 34th rainstorm warning in the past 35 days.
The heavy, sustained rains have flooded dozens of cities across southern China, especially those along the Yangtze River. According to the country’s state broadcaster, 121 people had died or gone missing as of Friday.
Since early June, the monsoon rains have impacted over 19 million people and caused 41 billion yuan ($5.8 billion) in economic damage.
So far, China’s total precipitation this year has been 7% above an unspecified “past average,” and sits at the second-highest point after six months since 2013, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.
“This year, our country has seen sustained and frequent rainstorms and floods,” Wang Zhangli, an official with the Ministry of Water Resources, said at a press conference last week. “Many medium and small rivers have multiple and recurring floods. Regional rainstorms and floods are more intense than in the past.”
Despite the country witnessing its worst floods in decades, the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters has said that the number of people impacted by the extreme weather is 46% lower than the preceding five years’ average.
While it’s unclear how historic flooding could be impacting fewer people, Wang said the reduction may be attributed to the efforts of low-level workers ahead of the flood season “really paying off.”
Over 300 rivers across 19 provincial-level regions have experienced above-warning-level floods, and a dozen of these rivers have seen their most severe floods in recent history, according to the Ministry of Emergency Management.
The ministry had dispatched over 13,000 emergency personnel to hard-hit regions as of Friday.
The central government on Thursday declared the first Yangtze River flood of the year following prolonged rainfall over the upper reaches of the river. China’s Ministry of Water Resources reports that over 50,000 cubic meters of water were flowing into the reservoir of the Three Gorges Dam every second — more than double the rate of water flowing in just five days ago.
In anticipation of sustained heavy rainfall, authorities a week ago ordered that the dam’s floodgates be opened for the first time this year: They were reportedly discharging 35,000 cubic meters of water per second.
Directly downstream from the Three Gorges are several cities in central China’s Hubei province. Many of them, including Yichang with its several million inhabitants, have been inundated in the past week. In videos circulating on China’s social media platforms, deadly floods have been crumbling houses and sweeping away roads in the region.
Officials in Wuhan, Hubei’s capital, upgraded the city’s flood warning level on Monday. “Currently, (we are) experiencing disastrous weather,” the notice said. “(We’d like to) remind all residents that it’s better not to go outside.”
Wuhan, a city still recovering from being ravaged by the coronavirus, is where the Yangtze and Han rivers converge, and a number of land reclamation projects may have made the province more susceptible to floods.
Apart from Hubei, the southwestern municipality of Chongqing and the central Hunan province upgraded their flood-prevention warnings on Monday. Both regions, which also lie along the Yangtze River, are expecting continued rainfall in the coming week.
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: The 700-year-old Goddess of Mercy Pavilion is surrounded by floodwaters in Ezhou, Hubei province, July 3, 2020. Chen Lingzhi/People Visual)