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2020-07-13 11:38:29

With strong, sustained rainfall expected in the coming weeks, China is facing a critical period for flood control, especially in the northern regions of the country, Ye Jianchun, vice minister of water resources, said at a press conference Monday.

According to Ye, 433 rivers in China have exceeded alert levels since June, with 109 above their flood lines and 33 at historic highs. China on Sunday raised its national flood response to the second-highest level in a four-tiered system, as destructive deluges are now affecting over 38 million people across 27 provincial-level regions, having destroyed 29,000 homes and resulted in 141 people dying or going missing.

One of the most heavily hit provinces, Jiangxi in eastern China, has gone into “wartime mode” after suffering its “strongest floods recorded this century,” which have killed four people and caused 405,000 more to be evacuated, according to the provincial government.

Before dawn on Sunday, Poyang Lake — the largest freshwater lake in China — saw its water level exceed 22.52 meters, the highest point previously recorded over 20 years ago. Of the province’s more than 2,500 kilometers of dykes, 88% exceeded alert levels, and one section of a dyke protecting human settlements from flooding collapsed under pressure, according to state media.

An island in the middle of the Yangtze, just north of Poyang Lake, has called on locals working away from home to return and help with flood control efforts. Jiangzhou Town, the main settlement on the island, has just 7,000 permanent residents, most of whom are either very young or very old. According to one estimate, fewer than 1,000 residents are aged between 18 and 60.

A resident surnamed Zhou in Jiujiang, the city that administers Jiangzhou Town, told Sixth Tone that he picked up his parents Monday morning after they arrived in the city from the island. Like many other inhabitants of Jiangzhou, they had to be evacuated.

Younger Jiangzhou residents, however, are being asked to stick around and help with flood control efforts. Zhou’s cousin, who is 48, is among those who stayed to help, in response to the local government’s call for able-bodied people between 18 to 65 to man the emergency task force.

The Jiujiang government has also dispatched people to local dykes to monitor water levels, Wei Xianchun, another resident, told Sixth Tone.

Since April, severe floods have inundated dozens of cities across China, especially along the Yangtze River, resulting in total estimated economic losses of 82.2 billion yuan ($11.7 billion).

Zheng Guoguang, the country’s vice minister of emergency management, said at Monday’s press briefing that the average precipitation recorded along the Yangtze River since June this year is the highest over the same period since 1961.

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: A man in a raft rows himself to safety through floodwaters in Liuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, July 11, 2020. People Visual)