CLIFFORD COONAN in Beijing
CHINA CONTINUED to deal with extremes of weather at the weekend as the central and southern regions, which were drought-stricken just days ago, were transformed into flood zones by pounding rains, killing more than 100 people.
Fearful of an even greater catastrophe, the China Meteorological Administration yesterday issued a level-three emergency alert in response to strong rainstorms that were expected to hit the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze river.
A provincial government adviser told the Xinhua news agency how drought had increased the risk of disaster, as the soil had become dried out, prompting more landslide risk.
Local media showed footage of people battling with the deluge. By late on Saturday, the floods across parts of 13 provinces had killed 94 people with 78 missing, damaged 1,800 square miles of crops, and knocked over 27,100 houses and other buildings, according to a report by the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.
In the central province of Hunan, 36 people were dead and 21 others missing, said local authorities, as torrential rain pounded 11 cities and prefectures in the area. Some 3.61 million people were affected by the rainfall, an official with the provincial flood control and drought relief headquarters said.
The heavy rains and floods toppled 17,300 houses and forced the evacuation of 149,000 people across the province, with the direct economic losses estimated at 2.22 billion yuan (€240 million).
There were grim scenes in Yunshan Village in Yueyang, in Hunan, where weather stations recorded more than 200 millimetres of rain in six hours, the kind of downpour that hits once every 300 years.
This caused deadly mudslides late last week, crushing 24 homes and killing at least 20 people, with another seven missing under boulders and dense mud, most likely dead, Xinhua reported.
In Wangmo, in Guizhou province in southwestern China, classes were due to resume after being shut by floods and mudslides on June 6th, although some will start summer holidays early. The deluge left 21 people dead and 31 missing in Wangmo. Among the dead were four students and two teachers, while seven students are still missing. At Wangmo’s Number 1 Primary School, desks and chairs on the first floor had been badly damaged, Guo Zuojing, the headmaster, told Xinhua.
Little immediate respite is expected as moderate rains and thundershowers were forecast to continue overnight in most parts of southern and central China, and were expected to be particularly torrential in the southern reaches of the Yangtze and northern areas in the Guangxi Zhuang area.
“This round of heavy rainfalls will last for quite some time, raising the risk of flash floods and landslides in drought-hit regions,” the meteorological agency said.
This kind of emergency alert sees local authorities on heightened awareness to monitor changes in the weather and give warnings in case of any possible natural disasters.