Crisis of Rains and Droughts
China is currently grappling with both record-breaking rainfall in certain regions and scorching summer heat that has led to droughts, endangering crops. Over the past week, flooding near Beijing and in neighboring Hebei province alone has claimed the lives of at least 22 individuals.
The Rising Waters
One resident, Xie Xin, shared how his family home in the western outskirts of Beijing was swiftly submerged within just 10 minutes due to the sudden rise of floodwaters. Xie acknowledged that although material possessions can be replaced, the loss of missing neighbors is truly heartbreaking.
In the northeast, approximately 54,000 people have been forced out of their homes around Harbin, the largest city in Heilongjiang province. Rescue teams, consisting of 81 boats, are tirelessly working to evacuate residents from affected areas, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
Tragedy struck on Thursday as a highway bridge in Heilongjiang collapsed, resulting in two cars plunging into the Mudan River. Casualty reports remain unconfirmed at this time.
Worst Flooding Since 1963
The Ministry of Water Resources declared that the Haihe Basin, encompassing Beijing and its surrounding cities, is experiencing its most severe flooding since 1963.
Beijing's Record Rainfall
Beijing faced its heaviest rainfall in at least 140 years as the remnants of Typhoon Doksuri unleashed torrential downpours across the region, as reported by the weather agency. The death toll in Beijing and Hebei province has risen to 22, including a volunteer rescuer and another individual who tragically lost their life while aboard a capsized rubber boat in a raging river.
Massive Relocations and Relief Work
More than 1.2 million people in Hebei province have been relocated by the government to safer areas. Furthermore, over 100,000 government employees have been mobilized for relief efforts.
Critical Infrastructure Impacted
The heavy rainfall has overwhelmed drainage systems, leading to the suspension of school classes in Beijing. Power outages have also been reported in certain parts of the city, affecting the daily lives of its more than 20 million inhabitants.
Protecting Beijing from Floods
Beijing recently experienced a significant flood, and while efforts were made to protect the city, some residents are expressing concerns that more could have been done. Floodwaters were diverted to neighboring areas, causing frustration among locals who believe that their city shouldn't have to suffer for the sake of others.
One of the hardest-hit districts in Beijing is Mentougou, located on the western outskirts of the city. Its residents, numbering over 260,000 people, are now faced with the task of clearing mud out of their homes. The floodwaters were so severe that some individuals in Nanxinfang Village, a part of Mentougou, were nearly swept away, raising questions about the fate of those who weren't as lucky.
According to the Beijing Meteorological Bureau, the city received a staggering 744.8 millimeters (29.3 inches) of rain from Saturday to Wednesday morning. As a precaution, approximately 125,000 people from high-risk areas in Zhuozhou, southwest of Beijing, were relocated to shelters.
While this flood has caused significant damage and disruption, it is not an isolated incident in China. In early July, floods in the southwestern region of Chongqing claimed the lives of at least 15 individuals. The most devastating floods in recent Chinese history occurred in 1998 along the Yangtze River, resulting in the loss of 4,150 lives.
Unfortunately, this year has proven to be another challenging one for China regarding flooding. The central province of Henan saw over 300 fatalities due to flooding, with record-breaking rainfall submerging Zhengzhou, the provincial capital. Streets turned into raging rivers, and even a subway line became flooded, trapping passengers in train cars.
Despite these flooding concerns, China was fortunate to escape the impact of Typhoon Khanun, which struck Japan and caused significant damage. The typhoon was initially expected to make landfall in Zhejiang province, just south of Shanghai. However, precautionary measures were taken, with ships being called into port and passenger ferry services suspended.
As China continues its efforts to protect its cities from the devastating effects of floods and severe weather, it remains crucial to find a balance that safeguards both the vulnerable regions and major urban centers like Beijing. Collaborative strategies and investment in robust infrastructure will be key in mitigating future flood risks.
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