Tag Archives: rains

China Warns Of Severe Floods

While drought persists in southwestern China, this year’s rainy season is bringing fears of extensive flooding elsewhere in the country. The national flood and drought prevention agency is warning of flooding along the Yangtze potentially more severe than the catastrophic floods of 1998 that killed 4,150 people. Water levels on the river’s middle and lower reaches are 1-3 meters higher than normal as a result of the recent torrential downpours and floods are already occurring along some of the river’s tributaries.

State media quote Wu Daoxi, who heads the agency’s Yangtze office, as saying that the chance for large-scale flooding is significantly higher now than in 1998. Other officials from the agency say that widespread floods are also likely to occur along the Huaihe river and localized ones along the Pearl river. Reservoirs are reported to be already filled to 80-90% capacity. Last Friday, Chen Lei, minister for water resources, called for reservoirs to be shored up to prevent flooding, saying that 40,000 were at risk of giving way. One that did, the Badoucun reservoir in Hunan, has resulted in a local official being sacked for not taking precautionary measures in time.

The potential damage caused by flooding is getting more severe because depletion of groundwater is lowering water tables and causing some 50 of China’s largest cities to sink Venice-like, Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, Hangzhou and Xian among them. We have noted before the potential explosive social costs of a water crisis getting beyond the government’s control. It will take a comprehensive program of water conservation, better water resource management and better husbandry of the ecosystem. And there are plans on all those fronts. But the weather is no respecter of five-year plans.

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Rains Bring Scant Relief To Drought In Southwest China

A villager takes water at an almost dried out reservoir in Haila Township of Weining County, southwest China's Guizhou Province, May 20, 2012. Southeast regions of Guizhou are hit by rainstorm and flood while northwest of the porvince are still stranded in drought, which has lingered in the areas for about half a year. A total of 29,763 people and 1,600 hectares farmland in Haila Township have been affected by the drought, according to the local government. (Xinhua/Yang Wenbin)

Nearly 5.5 million people are still suffering from lingering drought in Yunnan and Sichuan despite the recent rains bringing some relief. Authorities say that only 290,000 fewer people and 220,000 fewer livestock in the two provinces are short of water because of the break in the weather. More than 400,000 hectares of crops have been affected, according to the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters. Rainfall in the two provinces has been at 10% of normal levels, threatening tobacco, corn and rice crops.

Separately, disaster relief authorities in Guizhou say that more than 5.5 million people have been affected by drought, rainstorms and hailstorms that have caused direct economic losses of 1.8 billion yuan ($283 million) so far this year. The picture above of an almost dried out reservoir in Weining County in Guizhou is dated May 20.

Meanwhile, three people died when torrential rain hit Chongqing, and more than 5,000 people had to be relocated after a heavy rainstorm hit parts of Hunan. In Nanning, capital of Guangxi, nearly 900 people were evacuated after a road next to which a school had been drilling for drinking water subsided, causing one building to collapse and six more to tilt.

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Death Toll From China’s Rains Hits 70

The death toll from rain-triggered floods and landslides in central China has risen to 70 with 32 others missing, officials now say. The National Disaster Reduction Commission says more than 21 million people across eight provinces are now affected by the unusually late and heavy summer monsoon rains deluging Sichuan, Shaanxi, Henan, Chongqing, Hubei, Shandong, Shanxi and Gansu. Direct economic damages are put at an estimated 26 billion yuan ($4 billion). Hubei, Shaanxi and Sichuan have borne the brunt of it.

In the worst incident, a landslide that buried a brick factory and partially destroyed as ceramics plant in Baqiao, a suburb of Shaanxi’s provincial capital, Xian, 27 people are now reported dead with a further five missing. Rescue teams continue to recover bodies. (Update: The final death toll has been confirmed at 32 with the recovery of the last missing body on Tuesday, four days after the landslide.)

Meanwhile, the highest flood crest so far this year on the rain-swollen Yangtze river reached the Three Gorges Dam on Wednesday morning, raising the water level to 164 meters, 20 meters above the alert level.

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Floods And Landslides Hit Hubei

According to Hubei's Office of Flood and Drought Control, the floodwaters have affected 42,000 people in the region

Torrential rains have hit part of Hubei, causing landslides and disrupting road transport. More than 40,000 people across 14 counties in the west of the province have been affected with some 300 homes in the inundated areas being damaged, officials say. One person died after a house collapsed. Another is reported missing. More heavy rain is forecast over the next couple of days, but this is also expected to bring some relief to the drought persisting in southern and southwestern China.

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More Rain, Floods Deluge China’s Yangtze Basin

More than 36 million people have been affected by the flooding along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze this month (map) and the death toll has risen to 175 with at least 86 missing, state media say. More than 1.6 million people have had to be evacuated in what are being said to be the worst floods since the 1950s with many of the Yangtze’s tributaries swollen to dangerous levels. The direct economic loss is now put at 35 billion yuan ($5.4 billion).

Zhejiang has borne the brunt of the latest downpours with river embankments in Lanxi reported as being at the point of bursting. Some 80,000 residents have been evacuated. More torrential rain is in the forecast for the next three to five days. Meanwhile heavy rain and floods are also hitting Gansu in the northwest.

Update: Caixin has a series of photographs of a very wet looking Wuhan.

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Hainan Floods Claim First Victim

The flooding on Hainan following the heaviest rains on the island in 40 years has turned deadly. Authorities say one fisherman has lost his life and three others are missing, with more than 210,000 people now evacuated from 1,160 inundated villages. An extensive rescue operation is underway. Flood damage, including to the fishing fleet, is extensive. Meanwhile, efforts continue to deal with the threat of a potential dam collapse in the provincial capital Haikou. And  as we have written so many times this year, more rain is in the forecast.

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New Flood Surge Threat To Three Gorges Dam

The recent heavy rain in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River is posing a second flood surge threat to the Three Gorges Dam.  On Tuesday, the water level in the dam was more than 7 meters higher than the 145-meter flood alarm level, according to the Yangtze River Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters. Water levels reached 158 meters in July, just 17 meters below maximum capacity. Shipping through the Three Gorges was again suspended on Monday evening.

Update: The peak surge has passed without mishap, CCTV reports.

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Large Scale Evacuation Follows Yalu River Dike Breach

The feared flooding of the Yalu River along the border with North Korea has led to a further 50,000 people being evacuated from Dandong at the river’s mouth after the waters breached a dike on the outskirts of the city.  A second dike protecting the centre of the city has held so far. Some buildings on the outskirts have been flooded to the first floor. Rail services to the provincial capital Shenyang are now cut because the line is underwater. Three people are reported missing. Authorities are now concentrating on preventing landslides.

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Renewed rain started falling heavily on Friday swelling the river, which was already at sufficiently critical levels for shipping lanes to have been closed for three days earlier this month and a first round of evacuations undertaken. The picture of a tributary of the Yalu looking from Dandong towards the North Korean town of Sinuiju was taken on Aug. 6.

We are hearing reports that flood damage on the North Korean side of the river as a result of the most recent rains has been extensive. North Korea has already acknowledged that there has been substantial damage in the east of the country as a result of the exceptionally heavy rains that have fallen all summer.

More torrential rain is forecast for the region over the next 24 hours, and for central and southwestern China.

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Lessons From China’s Floods

This Bystander remains struck by the attention being given, at least by the Western press, to the floods in Pakistan compared to that been given to China’s, which are on an incomparably greater scale, affecting hundreds of millions of people, not tens of millions as in Pakistan.

True, China is not a locus of America’s “war on terror”. Nor has the flooding there led to the sort of chaos seen in Pakistan thanks to China’s well-laid disaster response plans. Local governments have emergency teams and supplies ready and waiting to go; central government can rapidly deploy specially trained soldiers, armed police and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to the worst affected areas. The earthquakes, floods and droughts of the past couple of years have given them all much opportunity to become seasoned emergency responders. Also, despite months of torrential rains and consequent flooding, landslides and mudslides across the country and a slowly but steadily mounting death toll, there had not been a single incident horrific enough to capture international attention until the landslide that devastated Zhouqu.

That there hadn’t been is thanks in great part to flood-control measures put in place after the terrible flooding of 1998. Those have not been perfect, nor perfectly implemented, and as in the case of the Three Gorges dam some have created new problems of their own, but they have been good enough to prevent a greater disaster than has occurred and particularly to reduce the loss of life.

A question now is what lessons will be learned from the floods of 2010. As we noted earlier, there is debate about the extent to which disasters like the one that has befallen Zhouqu are natural or man-made, an unintended consequence of the rush to economic development in the interior without due concern for the environmental consequences of the construction of hydroelectric dams, increased mining and road building, as well as extensive illegal logging and mining in many mountainous areas. Local officials have been rewarded for economic development, regardless of cost, including to the environment.

Beijing is making great strides for a developing economy in being more protective of the environment. There are policy prescriptions aplenty. That should all be acknowledged, just as the immensity of the challenge of doing that in an economy that the central government wants to be kept growing at at least 8% a year for reasons of political legitimacy should not be underestimated. Even keeping up, let alone catching up is a Herculean task.

There is legitimate economic self-interest in undertaking it. Party leaders are, however, acutely aware of the risk of single-issue social movements evolving into a challenge to their political monopoly.  They know their history well enough to understand that environmental degradation has been a fecund source of political movements in every industrial revolution. China’s will be no different; the outcome will depend on the Party’s ability to manage and co-opt them. The lessons of this year may be that the price of political legitimacy has just gone up a notch and gained an added environmental dimension. It is a lesson that will likely be pushed down to Party and local officials harder than before.

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Rains Return As Disease And New Landslide Fears Grow

With torrential rains returning to the north west, hopes for the further recovery of survivors from the Zhouqu landslide are fading and fears of new landslides and outbreaks of disease from dirty water emerging. Experts in epidemic prevention have arrived in the area, Xinhua reports, and squads of soldiers in protective suits are already disinfecting areas of town (below) .

[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=Zhouqu&iid=9528035″ src=”http://view.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9528035/rescuers-prepare-disinfect/rescuers-prepare-disinfect.jpg?size=500&imageId=9528035″ width=”500″ height=”333″ /]

Questions are also starting to be raised about the effects of the 2008 earthquake that shook the region on the underlying stability of the land, about the effects of logging that have denuded mountainsides, and of the dam and mining projects that are part of the economic development push in the west but which are said to have caused an increase in avalanches and landslides. The 1998 floods led to greater environmental protections, particularly in the Yangtze River floodplain. Will this years disasters do the same in the mountains of the west?

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