‘Once a century’ floods to hit southern China

Published April 22, 2024
A CYCLIST pedals past a flooded  river in Qingyuan City in China’s southern Guangdong province, on Sunday.—AFP
A CYCLIST pedals past a flooded river in Qingyuan City in China’s southern Guangdong province, on Sunday.—AFP

• Emergency plans activated to safeguard 127m people from imminent flooding
• Officials warn of record water levels in key river basins

BEIJING: Severe floods “seen around once a century” are expected to hit parts of southern China, state media said Sunday, as heavy rains prompted authorities to step up disaster precautions.

Major rivers, waterways and reservoirs in Guangdong province are threatening to unleash dangerous floods, forcing the government on Sunday to enact emergency response plans to protect more than 127 million people.

Calling the situation “grim”, local weather officials said sections of rivers and tributaries at the Xijiang and Beijiang river basins are hitting water levels in a rare spike that only has a one-in-50 chance of happening in any given year, state broadcaster CCTV news said on Sunday.

Guangdong officials urged departments in all localities and municipalities to begin emergency planning to avert natural disasters and promptly disperse disaster relief funds and materials to ensure affected people have food, clothing, water and a place to live.

The province, a major exporter and one of China’s main commercial and trading centres, has seen torrid downpours for several days and strong winds due to severe convective weather, which has also affected other parts of China.

A 12-hour stretch of heavy rain, starting from 8pm on Saturday, battered the central and northern parts of the province in the cities of Zhaoqing, Shaoguan, Qingyuan and Jiangmen.

Almost 20,000 people have been evacuated in Qingyuan, according to state media, and some power facilities in Zhaoqing were damaged, cutting power to some places.

About 1,103 schools in Zhaoqing, Shaoguan and Qingyuan will suspend classes on Monday, Chinese state radio said.

Raging muddy flood waters swept one vehicle down a narrow street in Zhaoqing, showed a video released by Hongxing News.

Authorities in Qingyuan and Shaoguan also suspended ships from travelling through several rivers. Many hydrological stations in the province are exceeding water levels, weather officials warned, and in the provincial capital Guangzhou, a city of 18 million, reservoirs have reached flood limits, city officials announced on Sunday.

Data showed 2,609 hydrological stations with daily rainfall greater than 50mm, accounting for about 59pc of all observation stations.

In neighbouring Guangxi, west of Guangdong, violent hurricane-like winds whipped the region, destroying buildings state media video footage showed. Some places have also experienced hailstones and major flooding, CCTV said.

As of 10am, 65 landslides were recorded in the city of Hezhou located in Guangxi, state media reported. Landslides injured at least six people and trapped others, state media reported on Sunday.

CCTV said on Sunday that rains had sparked landslides affecting six villages in the northern Guangdong town of Jiangwan, “causing people to become trapped”.

No deaths were immediately reported and the total number of trapped people was not specified.

Weather forecasters are expecting heavy rain through Monday in Guangxi region, Guangdong, Fujian and Zhejiang provinces.

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2024

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