SOUTHERN CHINA HAS been seeing its heaviest summer rains for 60 years, bringing floods, widespread destruction of crops and more disruption to supply chains.
Hundreds of thousands of Guangdong and Guangxi residents living around the Pearl River delta have been evacuated after a week of persistently high rains. State media have aired footage of people being rescued with ropes and rubber dinghies, and cars floating down streets. Several cities in Guangdong have raised their flood alerts to the highest level.
The rain has disrupted manufacturing and shipping, already suffering under strict anti-Covid measures. Particularly in the more mountainous north of the province, where the flooding is most severe and landslides have happened, businesses were ordered to close temporarily, and public transport was suspended as rising waters approached dangerous levels. The direct economic loss so far is estimated at more than 1.7 billion yuan ($250 million).
To the north of Guangdong, Jiangxi province has also raised its flood warnings. Officials report direct economic losses already reaching 470 million yuan, with 43,300 hectares of crops inundated.
In neighbouring Hunan province, 21,607 hectares have been damaged, and there are reports of landslides and building collapses.
China’s National Meteorological Center warned that downpours could continue for another week, although the heaviest rains are expected to move northwards across central China from mid-week.
In recent years, climate change has made the south wetter and the north hotter and drier.
The numbers affected by the drought in southwestern China continues to edge up. Officials say that 12.6 million people are now short of water while 6.25 million hectares of farmland have been left parched as rivers and reservoirs dry up across Yunan (seen above in a photograph taken on Sept. 7th), Guizhou, Hunan, Sichuan and Chongqing. At the end of last month, 12 million people were said to be facing water shortages. Relief teams have been deployed across the region to ensure emergency water supplies while local officials are being instructed to prevent food shortages. Light rain is in the forecast for the next three days but it will likely provide scant relief from the arid spell and high temperatures that have persisted since July.
There is no let up in the drought parching southwestern China that has left at least 12 million people short of water across Yunan (seen above), Guizhou, Hunan, Sichuan and Chongqing. State media report that emergency response teams have now been dispatched to Sichuan, as they were to Guizhou and Yunnan earlier.
In Sichuan more than 2 million people now face water shortages, up from the 1.7 million reported earlier in the week. More than 1.2 million head of livestock are short of water and 70,000 hectares of crops in the province have been ruined. In Guizhou, 5.5 million people are reported short of water, and 2.8 million livestock. The drought conditions started in July and there is no sign of any break in the high temperatures that have persisted since. Reservoirs and rivers have shriveled or dried up, as has the reservoir at Qujing City in Yunnan shown in the photograph above taken on Aug. 23.
In all, across the four provinces and the municipality of Chongqing, 5.9 million hectares of crops have been affected. Earlier in the week, the National Bureau of Statistics said that the country’s early season rice harvest was 4.5% higher than last year’s despite the parched conditions in the southwest. Harvested acreage was down by 0.8%, the bureau noted.
The drought in southwestern China is getting worse despite some recent rainfall. State media report that more than 12 million people are short of water in Guizhou, Yunnan, Hunan, Sichuan and Chongqing, twice as many as reported a week ago. More than 9 million head of cattle are also short of water, half as many again as last week. Nearly 6 million hectares of crops have been parched as hundreds of reservoirs and rivers have dried up since the drought started in July. The picture above is of what remains of the Dongjin reservoir in Yunnan, taken on Aug. 23. Low water levels have also hit hydropower generation, exacerbating seasonal power shortages.
Severe drought continues in southwest China. Temperatures have hit 40℃ in Chongqing with rivers and reservoirs drying up. The heat and lack of rain is expected to persist over the next week in Guizhou, Yunnan, Hunan and Jiangxi. More than 2 million people in Guizhou alone are short of drinking water. Some 760,000 head of livestock are also short of water, while more than 1 million hectares of crops have been affected. In all, 6 million head of livestock and 6.9 million people are short of water across the Southwest. Almost 4.7 million hectares of arable land have been affected. However, officials say the effect on the grain harvest will be less damaging than in other years.
Meanwhile, heavy rainstorms, floods and landslides have hit 61 cities in the north and east of the country, causing at least 10 deaths.
As eastern China battened down in the face of Typhoon Muifa, officials have counted up the devastation caused by natural disasters in July: at least 204 dead and 43.6 billion yuan ($6.75 billion) in economic losses, with 7 million hectares of crops damaged. Inner Mongolia, Shandong, Sichuan and Shannxi were hardest hit by floods and landslides, while the drought in Guizhou and Hunan became more severe. July’s death toll followed the 279 who had died as a result of natural disasters in June, which took the total for the first half of this year to at least 449. During those six months, China was hit by seven 5.0-plus magnitude earthquakes while the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze river experienced their heaviest rainfall in more than half a century.
A large portion of the deaths in July were caused by lightening strikes, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, without giving a number. In June, 15 people died after being hit by lightening, the ministry had said earlier. Such fatalities have been on the decline since 2007 when lightening killed 744 people, mostly farmers caught in thunderstorms and unable to find shelter, making it the third most deadly type of natural disaster after floods and mudslides that year. Even so, we estimate, some 300 people were killed by lightening last year. Early warning systems for severe storms have been improved, but cover only 85% of China’s rural areas. It is not expected that the percentage will reach 90% until 2015.
The death toll from the flooding along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze river has now passed 100. State media report that as of Monday morning 105 people are dead and 63 are missing since June 3 when the drought-breaking summer rains began. Hunan is worst affected with 39 dead, 19 in one mudslide, followed by Hubei with 29, Guizhou with 24 and Jiangxi at 13. Flood relief operations are now being conducted across 11 provinces, with more torrential rain expected over the next three days. The economic cost of the floods, including destroyed farmland, is put at 8.7 billion yuan ($1.3 billion).
Meanwhile, the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters say that 1.9 million hectares of farmland remain affected by drought, half the area at the peak. More than one million people are still short of drinking water, down from nearly 4 million at one point.
The death toll caused by flooding in southern and central China has risen to more than 100 with at least 40 missing. The latest deaths include 25 in Hubei and 19 in Hunan, where the photograph above was taken, after waters breached river and reservoir embankments and then destroyed homes.
In all, more than 50 people are known to be dead across the four drought-hit provinces along the Yangtze that have suffered the worst flash flooding. Officials at the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters say more than 7,000 homes have been washed away and 255,000 hectares of farmland submerged. Economic losses so far are put at 5 billion yuan ($760 million).
The recent heavy rains are breaking the worst drought in 60 years in the lower and middle reaches of the Yangtze river, as they did earlier in Guizhou, where 50 are now reported to have died as the result of flooding there. Officials say that the combined economic cost of the floods and drought is 23 billion yuan. Some 617,600 hectares of farmland have been parched, with 12,600 hectares left unusable.
More heavy summer rains are in the forecast while tropical storm Sarika is expected make landfall along the Guangdong and Fujian coasts over the weekend.
The summer rains have come, at least to parts of drought-parched central and southern China. Hopes are growing that they will break the worst drought in 60 years. The rain was so heavy in parts of southern China that one person has been left dead and 15 people missing after flash floods in Guizhou. Houses have been destroyed and power supplies and road links cut. In Hunan, 16,000 people had to be evacuated from Loudi in the face of flooding triggered by the torrential rains. In all 60,000 people have been evacuated in the southwest and east, state media report.
Flood Control and Drought Relief headquarters says that while the downpours have helped ease the along the Yangtze river, more than 2 million people still face water shortages. However, heavy rain is in the forecast for eastern and southern China over the next three days.
Rain has started to alleviate the drought in the south and central regions of the country, but more than 1 million people and 400,000 livestock remain short of water, state media report. Though officials say the area of affected farmland has shrunk to 900,000 hectares from its peak of 1.3 million hectares, the dry weather has hampered Spring ploughing in grain-growing areas. Conditions remain worse in Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu and southern Yunnan, with 50-year-low water levels in the middle stretch of the Yangtze a particular concern to river traffic.