In recent weeks, heavy rainfall has led to severe flooding and landslides across much of southern China, damaging homes, crops and roads.
In Hunan province, 10 people have died this month and three are still missing, with 286,000 people evacuated and a total of 1.79 million residents affected, officials said at a news conference on Wednesday.
More than 2,700 houses have collapsed or suffered serious damage, and 96,160 hectares of crops have been destroyed – heavy losses for a province that serves as a major rice production center for China. Direct economic losses are estimated at more than 4 billion yuan ($600 million), according to officials.
At the end of last month, eight people were killed by floods and landslides in coastal Fujian province, five people in southwestern Yunnan province and two children swept away by flash floods in Guangxi province.
Chinese authorities are on high alert for this year’s flood season, which began this month, following the deaths of 398 people in devastating floods caused by unprecedented rainfall in central Henan last summer.
Summer flooding is a regular occurrence in China, especially in the densely populated agricultural areas along the Yangtze River and its tributaries. But scientists have been warning for years that the climate crisis would amplify extreme weather, making it deadlier and more frequent.
Henan, traditionally not a region to experience regular flooding, saw what authorities called a “once in a thousand years” downpour last July at some weather stations.
The provincial capital of Zhengzhou, which was responsible for the bulk of the death toll, was ill-prepared for the floods. City officials ignored the five consecutive red warnings of torrential rain — which should have prompted authorities to halt gatherings and suspend classes and businesses. The floodwaters poured into the tunnels of the city’s subway system, trapping hundreds of passengers and killing 12 of them.
The tragedy gripped the nation, raising questions about how prepared China’s cities are for extreme weather.
Ahead of this year’s flood season, Chinese authorities had warned that a host of “extreme weather events” would hit the country. According to China’s National Climate Center, extreme torrential rains are likely to ravage southern and southwestern parts of the country, as well as southern Tibet.
In April, the Ministry of Housing and Urban and Rural Development and the National Development and Reform Commission told Chinese cities to learn from the Zhengzhou disaster and do their best to prevent flooding in the city, given the “acute impact of extreme weather conditions” this year.