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    After Sandstorms and Droughts, Here Come the Floods

    Almost half a million people in Jiangxi have been affected by torrential rainfall over the weekend, as extreme weather is happening more frequently in China.

    Following an unusually warm spring and rounds of sandstorms, China is witnessing another case of extreme weather. Over the past weekend, floods caused by torrential rainfall forced 14,000 residents to relocate and disrupted the lives of nearly half a million people in the eastern province of Jiangxi, according to the province’s emergency management agency.

    The rainfall has already led to financial losses of 520 million yuan ($75 million), the agency said in a Sunday statement, adding that a further assessment is still underway. Since Thursday, a total of 107 counties have recorded different levels of torrential rain, with 10 counties seeing precipitation levels exceeding 250 millimeters within 24 hours, according to the provincial meteorological agency.

    The rainfall was the heaviest in Jiangxi so far this year after the province entered flooding season on March 24, a week earlier than the average in previous years. Just last fall, the province was hit by a severe drought, with Poyang Lake, the country’s largest freshwater lake, seeing its water level dipping to one of the lowest on record.

    In the city of Yichun, flash floods breached a dike on Saturday morning, leaving four villages submerged and nearly 300 residents affected. On Sunday, local officials said the breach had been repaired and the water in the villages had receded.

    The national flood control and drought relief agency issued a level 4 emergency response on Saturday. China has a four-tier emergency response system for floods, with level 1 the most severe response.

    Beyond Jiangxi, torrential rain also hit the neighboring Fujian and Guangdong provinces. On Sunday morning, four local cadres in the city of Longyan, Fujian, were swept away by floodwater when a bridge collapsed during an inspection. More than 500 rescuers were sent to search for them, who are still missing as of publication time. 

    The heavy rainfall comes as the government warns that climate change is making the country more vulnerable to extreme weather events. In April, the China Meteorological Administration said that the country will see a variety of extreme weather events from May to September including torrential rain, droughts, and floods.  

    In March, sandstorms swept through more than half of China’s provincial-level regions, affecting the lives of more than 560 million people in northern areas such as the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Liaoning province, and Heilongjiang province. There have already been 12 sandstorms as of April this year — the average for the same period in previous years was 9.1 storms, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

    Some regions have also been hit by unusually high temperatures in the past week. On Saturday, the counties of Changjiang and Lingao in the southern province of Hainan reached 41 degrees Celsius, the provincial weather office announced, issuing its highest level high-temperature alert for the first time this year.

    Editor: Vincent Chow. 

    (Header image: A woman waits to be rescued at the entrance to her flooded house at a village in Zhangshu, Jiangxi province, May 6, 2023. IC)