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    Towns Cut Off as ‘Once-in-a-Century’ Floods Engulf South China

    Freak rain storms have wreaked havoc across the southern Guangdong province, disrupting power supplies and making rescue efforts challenging.

    Extreme rainfall continued to batter southern China’s Guangdong province on Monday, with severe floods and landslides disrupting the lives of millions of residents.

    Over 1 million households were left without power, hundreds of flights were canceled, and rescue teams struggled to reach stranded locals over the weekend, as local authorities warned of a “once-in-a-century” deluge.

    The downpours began on April 18 and continued in many areas through the weekend and into Monday. Several cities say precipitation levels this month are already the highest ever recorded in the month of April.

    Four deaths have been confirmed and another 10 people are reportedly missing as of Monday, according to state media, as the region of over 125 million continues to grapple with the crisis.

    In northern Guangdong, where the flooding has been most intense, residents described a harrowing few days as homes were inundated with water, communications networks went down, and landslides made rescue efforts challenging.

    In Jiangwan, a town in the northern city of Shaoguan, local roads were blocked off by landslides, forcing rescue workers to wade through the waters to provide assistance. Six injured residents were evacuated by helicopter on Sunday, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

    Emergency workers managed to restore telecommunications links to the town on Sunday after several hours, but connections remain patchy, a local resident surnamed Zhou told Sixth Tone. The town has set up two shelters to house locals whose homes have been flooded, he added.

    In Qingyuan, another severely hit city, 700 children were left trapped inside a middle school amid the floods. They were eventually evacuated by dinghy after a seven-hour rescue operation on Sunday, domestic media outlet The Paper reported.

    Authorities in parts of Qingyuan and several other cities have suspended classes at local schools. Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport has issued its first mass flight delay alert of the year, and flights into and out of the city remain seriously disrupted.

    On Sunday, China’s Ministry of Water Resources declared the floods in Guangdong a level-three emergency. (China has four levels of emergency response, with level one the highest.) Top officials, including Guangdong Party Secretary Huang Kunming, traveled to Shaoguan to direct local rescue efforts.

    There were concerns that the floods might get even worse on Monday, with Guangdong’s disaster prevention center warning that communities near the Beijiang River in the northern part of the province should brace for a “once-in-a-century” event.

    Monitoring stations along the Beijiang River did indeed record their largest peak inflows in more than a century on Monday morning, a member of staff at the provincial water resources bureau told Sixth Tone. But the flooding pressure had alleviated in the afternoon as local rainfall weakened, the person added.

    On Sunday, the Guangdong provincial government predicted that heavy rainfall would continue for the next three days and said that it would maintain “stringent” flood control measures.

    China is likely to face a particularly turbulent year of weather this year due to the end of the current El Niño cycle, which generally causes rising temperatures around the world. Heat waves, floods, and other ecological disasters are likely to become more frequent and intense this summer, climate experts predict.

    (Header image: An aerial view of the floods affecting Dating Village in Yingde, Guangdong province, April 21, 2024. VCG)