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2022-08-19 09:51:54

Rescuers are searching for the missing in northwest China’s Qinghai province after floods and mudslides triggered by heavy rainfall Thursday killed at least 17, officials say.

Han Xianghui, vice head of the provincial emergency management department, said Friday that a strong downpour since Wednesday caused flash floods that rushed down rivers in Datong Hui and Tu Autonomous County, damaging dozens of houses, bridges, and roads while forcing the evacuation of 1,294 people. By Friday, 17 people were confirmed dead and 17 remained missing.

Qinglin township, one of the most disrupted regions in the county, recorded an estimated 118 millimeters of rainfall in August, according to Han. Xining, the prefecture in which the county is located, gets an average of 81 millimeters of rain in August, one of its wettest months. The province has since issued a level-one emergency response, the highest in its four-tier system.

Floods caused about 246 billion yuan ($36 billion) in direct damages in China last year. Climate change also heightens disaster risks in the country, which is the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter. As the climate warms, more extreme weather is expected to pummel the country, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

While some parts of the country face floods, other regions are suffering an intense heat wave. This summer, long-lasting scorching temperatures have put China under the strongest heat wave since 1961. The country’s Yangtze river basin, which contains a third of China’s population, faces drought in what is normally a flood season. Rainfall in the basin in July fell about 40% than it did in previous years, and water levels behind dams are depleting.

The scorching heat also worries some over the knock-on effect over China’s supply chain, as spiking power demand has put a strain on local grids, impacting business output. Tesla, for example, has asked for government relief after power outages in the drought-stricken Sichuan province in southwest China threaten the operations of some of the automaker’s parts suppliers. Meanwhile, low water levels in the Yangtze River, the most important inland waterway in China, has disrupted shipping, with at least one major section of the river closed to traffic.

Editor: David Cohen.

(Header image: Roads are damaged after mountain torrents at a village in Datong County, Qinghai province, Aug, 18, 2022. Zhang Minyan/CNS/IC)