HEAVY RAIN AND FLOODS IN CHINA

FLOODS IN CHINA

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Flood preparedness poster
Floods and devastating landslides and mudslides are serious problems in China. Every year hundreds die in them during the June-to-August rainy season. Around 500 people die from them Yunnan Province alone. Mudslides and flooding are common in China's mountainous areas. Deforestation has led to soil erosion and made some parts of China prone to mudslides after strong rains.

China is hit by heavy summer rainfalls every year. China’s south and west are experiencing a seven-fold increase in heavy rains from what they experienced in the 1950s. The flood and landslide problems are often exacerbated by deforestation and erosion. Without trees, plants and bushes to absorb the water and hold the earth in place, water runs off quickly and causes flash floods and saturates slopes, causing landslides.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the deadliest flood ever killed 900,000 people around the Hwang-ho River in October 1887.

Worst Recorded Floods and Tidal Waves (number of dead): 1) Huang He River, China, August 1931 (3,700,000); 2) Huang He River, China, 1887 (900,000); 3) China, 1642 (300,000); 4) North China, 1939 (200,000); 5) Chang Jian River, China (100,000); 6) Holland, 1228 (100,000); 7) Indonesia, Aug 27, 1883 (100,000); 8) Morvi, India, Aug, 11, 1979 (15,000); 9) Bangladesh, Oct 10, 1960 (6,000); 10) Galveston, TX, Sept. 8, 1900 (5,000).

Good Websites and Sources: Google Floods in China for news reporst of floods during the last few years Wikipedia article on 1931 Flood Wikipedia ; Wikipedia article on 2008 Floods Wikipedia ; National Climate Data Center Report on the 1998 Yangtze Flood ncdc.noaa.gov ; 1931 Flood cultural-china.com ; Flood Management Report pdf file apfm.info/pdf/ ,The State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters is in charge of developing and carrying flood control plans.

Links in this Website: NATURAL DISASTERS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; EARTHQUAKES Factsanddetails.com/China ; EARTHQUAKES IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ;SICHUAN EARTHQUAKE IN 2008 Factsanddetails.com/China ; Factsanddetails.com/China ; RELIEF AND REBUILDING AFTER THE SICHUAN EARTHQUAKE IN 2008 Factsanddetails.com/China ; SICHUAN EARTHQUAKE IN 2008, POORLY-BUILT SCHOOLS Factsanddetails.com/China ; FLOODS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; WEATHER IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; TYPHOONS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China

Yellow River Floods

From time to time the Yellow River overflows its banks and fills huge plains with large amounts of water. Floods sometimes occur when blocks of ice block the Yellow River. About once a century these floods reach catastrophic levels.

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Flood-induced course changes on the Yellow River

When the levees of the Yellow River break, which happens with some regularity, the countryside is devastated. When the river’s dikes were breached in 132 B.C., floods occurred in 16 districts and a new channel was opened in the middle of the plain. Ten of millions of peasants were affected. The break remained for 23 years until Emperor Wu-ti visited the scene and supervised its repair.

In A.D. 11, the Yellow River breached its dikes near the same place, and the river changed course and forged an new path to sea, a hundred miles away from its former mouth. Repair work took several decades. The A.D. 11 flood caused a famine and mass migration that was followed by a massive drought that helped set off a series of rebellions that led to the ouster of Wang Mang and the downfall of the first the Han Dynasty. By A.D. 25 a descendants of Western Han royalty had retaken the throne, establishing the eastern Han Dynasty which lasted another 200 years.

The Yellow River flows in braided streams, a network of smaller channels that weave in and out of each other. In each channel silt slowly builds the riverbed above the surrounding landscape and gives the river its devastating habit of breaking its banks and changing course.

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Making dikes on the Yellow River

When the Yellow River floods it becomes like a flowing mudslide. The river normally carries an enormous amount of silt and the amount increases when it floods. During a 1958 flood sediment levels were measured at 35 pounds per square foot, causing the river surface to become “wrinkled.”

In a tactic intended to halt the southward movement of Japanese soldiers from Manchuria before World War II, Chiang Kai-shek ordered his soldiers to breach the levees of the Yellow River and purposely divert its flow. At least 200,000, maybe millions, died, millions more were made homeless and the Japanese advanced anyway.

Yangtze Floods

The Yangtze River frequently overflows its banks and fills huge plains with large amounts of water, causing catastrophic flooding. There are floods every year during the June-to-September monsoon season. On average at least several hundred people are killed in Yangtze River floods every year. Some years there are devastating floods.

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Yellow River Flood in 1938

The Yangtze is responsible for 70 to 75 percent of China’s floods. Floods on the river in the 20th century alone have killed more than 300,000 people. There were catastrophic floods on the Yangtze in 1931, 1935 and 1954 and 1998. Over 2,000 are believed to have died in the flood of 1991. Some 4,100 died in the floods in 1998.

In 1931, 140,000 people were drowned when Yangtze dikes gave way. A Yangtze River flood in 1954 killed 30,000 people outright and perhaps an additional 200,000 through starvation and disease. One villager who lived through it told the Washington Post, "The corpses were put in coffins but they could not be buried. They were just stacked up.”

The Three Gorges Dam has reduced flood risks in the middle stretch of the river but the risks of flooding remains high on the lower stretches.

Heavy Rain and Floods in Guizhou

In June 2007, severe floods struck parts of southern China. Describing a flood that devastated a Dong minority village in Guizhou Province, Amy Tan wrote in National Geographic: “A small amount of flooding was not unusual in summer...But this rain did not stop. People could hear its splattering on their roofs all night long. The Chief Village Elder, who lived in the flat valley, saw the river rising but was not concerned at first. He went to the mountains at 5:00am to feed his horse. When he returned the river had spilled over its ten-foot-high banks. His family was gone, they had already carried the he television and their valuables to the top floor. The neighbors were in the midst of securing coffins and sacred pigs. He watched from the closest bridge.”

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1938 flood in Huayuankou

”On the other side of the bridge, water rushed into the ground levels homes, “ Tan wrote. “A frightened young woman strapped her baby to her back and she and her in-laws took what they could to the upper level. Other belongings floated away; buckets and stools, pails of anyu and bamboo holsters for scythes. One neighbor’s front door ripped off and became a raft. The narrow road was now part of the river, a dark channel of mud, rocks, debris and logs. Waves slapped on the sides of the shortest bridge, and water gushed through rail slats and covered the benches. It looked like a boat about to leave it mooring. Submerged fields broadened the river, and hundreds of carp rushed downstream. Some landed in fields. People stood on bridge trying to net the rest.

”At 9 a.m. the rain subsided. At 11 a.m. the water began to recede....According to the chief it was the worst flood in 80 to 100 years. Fields were lost. Homes were damaged, roads were washed out, but luckily no one was killed.” The devastation was widespread. All of Guizhou and Hunan Provinces had been affected. Many wondered if the illegal grave curse was still active. Were more illegal burials to be found? A certain sense of releif was achived when the Feng Shui Master announced that the floods were “a natural disaster, not a supernatural one.”

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Japanese rescue during the 1938 Yellow River flood

Floods in China in the 1990s

In 1996, there were large floods on the Huai River in Anhui province. Flood waters turned hilltop villages into islands; left pig and chickens on rooftops; and caused one lake to exceed its shore by five kilometers. A similar flood occurred in 1991. In 1996 there was also severe floods in Hunan and Guangxi.

Around the same time as the 1998 Yangtze floods, there were also catastrophic floods on the Nen River around the city of Qiqhar near the Mongolian border.

In the summer 1999, monsoon floods caused by the overflowing upper and middle Yangtze, left at least 400 dead and 1.84 million homeless. More than 66 million people were affected.

Yangtze Floods in 1998

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Satellite view of 1998 flood
In the summer of 1998, the Yangtze experienced its worst floods in 44 years. More than 4,100 people were killed, 13.8 million were left homeless and 240 million people (a number equal to the entire population of the United States) were affected directly by the rising waters.

The floods submerged 21 million acres of land, affected 53 million acres and destroyed 11 million acres of crops. More than 5.8 million houses were destroyed. Dikes were blown up in Jianli County to save Wuhan, a city of seven million people 150 miles upstream. Even so waters reached waist level in downtown Wuhan.

Some people were evacuated on short notice and lost most of their possessions. Some tied their stuff in trees above the flood water because they couldn't carry them. Soldiers and police were called in to evacuate a half million people, keep order, prevent looting and stop the flooding. Dramatic footage was shown on Chinese television of soldiers risking their lives to reach from trees to pluck victims from the raging waters and working hard to shore up dikes with sandbags.

Causes of Yangtze Floods in 1998

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1998 flood survivors
Severe rainfall was the main cause of the floods but man-induced factors included deforestation of erosion-subverting forests in the Yangtze river basin and other areas also contributed to the disaster. Rain water absorbed by forests and vegetation flows more slowly to rivers and streams, preventing flooding.

Other problems included the inhabitation of vulnerable flood plains by large numbers of people (550,000 people were evacuated from an area in which 170,000 were evacuated in 1954); the silting up and development of lakes that previously absorbed flood waters; and the neglect of dikes. In 1980, $1.2 billion was earmarked for dike improvement. But by 1987, only $48 million had been spent. Some of the money was diverted to the Three Gorges Dam project.

Corruption and ineptitude were also factors. Large sums of flood prevention money was stolen, much of it by contractors who took money and then gave the work to other contractors who took money without doing any work. In some places, corrupt officials pocketed money intended to be spent on steel rods that was supposed to reinforce the dikes. Without the metal rods some dikes melted away.

See Roads and Bridges.

After the 1998 floods, dikes were reinforced at considerable expense and hundreds of thousands of people that lived near the banks were forced to relocate.

Floods in China in the Early-2000s

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Placing sandbags
During the 2001 summer flood season around 1,100 people were killed across China by the flooding and 1.3 million were left homeless.

In May 2003, landslides caused by heavy rains and floods in Fujian, Guangdong and Hunan Provinces, in southern and central China killed 45 people. More than 200,000 people were forced to flee their homes.

In July 2003, landslides caused by heavy rains and floods in the Sichuan regions of central China killed 21 people. More than 10,000 people were evacuated along the Huaihe River in Anhui Province, where dikes were blown up with explosives to keep flood waters way from populated areas. In one case a dike was blown up to protect people in the industrial city of Bengpu but in the process water poured into an area in which 11,130 villages had been evacuated.

In September 2003, torrential rains and floods in central China destroyed more than 17,000 homes in Henan Province and forced more than 200,000 to flee from their homes in Henan and in neighboring Shaanxi Province. Anhui and Jiangsu provinces were also hit. Heavy rains fell day after day, triggering mudslides, cutting off power and telephone and cell phone communications, and destroying roads and bridges. Thousands of villages were affected more than a million people were stranded.

Flooded Lake in China in 2002

In August 2002, heavy rains caused Dongting Lake in Hunan Province to overflow it banks. The rains swelled rivers, flowing into the Rhode-Island-size lake. causing lake waters to rise to seven feet above dangerous levels.

About 15,000 troops joined 930,00 civilians, working around the clock, to stack sandbags and plug breaches in dikes. Yuenyang, a city of 600,000 on the northeastern bank of the lake, was severely flooded as was Changas, a city on one of the rivers flowing into the lake. Around 600,000 people were evacuated from their homes. There were worries that the dikes would be breached, causing extensive flooding in lowlands inhabited by millions.

Summer Floods in China in 2004

Summer floods in China in 2004 killed more than 1,000 people and forced more than 2 million people to evacuate their homes. Most of the dead were in southern China, particularly in the provinces of Guangdong, near Hong Kong, Hunan and Guizhou and in northeastern China. The biggest single tragedy was the death of 62 children and two villagers, who were swept by a flash flood at a primary school in Heilongjiang Province in northeast China. It was one of the deadliest rainy season rains on record.

In July 2004, floods, mudslides, caved in roads and landslides in southern China killed more than 400 people and destroyed nearly 200,000 homes. Hunan, Yunnan, Henan, Guizhou, Guangxi and Sichuan were the hardest hit provinces. Chongqing recorded the highest rainfall amounts in 200 years. The largest branch of the Yangtze, in Hunan Province, had the worst floods in a century. Road cave-ins cut off Dazhou’s downtown area. The rains, which were associated with the seasonal rainy season, also damaged thousands of acres of crops.

In September 2004, once-a-century rains caused massive floods and mudslides in Sichuan, leaving 174 dead, scores missing and destroying hundreds of thousands of homes. Huge volumes of water backed up behind the Three Gorges dam. Most of the deaths were caused by landslides, fast-moved mud and rock flows and flash floods.

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Flood in 1931

Floods in China in the Mid-2000s

In September 2004, floods caused by heavy rains in Sichuan Province, killed at least 120 people and cause authorities to put the Three Gorges dam on alert.

In March 2005, rapid melting of heavy winter snows in Xinjiang caused flooding and landslides that destroyed about 10,000 homes and 100 bridges. Snows in the Tien Shen mountains were thicker than usual. and they melted more quickly than usual as temperatures soared in early March,

Torrential downpours from the heaviest rains in a century in July 2005 around the city of Dazhou in Sichuan in southwest China caused severe flooding, resulting in 29 deaths and the evacuation of 150,000 people. Roads to Dazhou were cut off by floods and water levels reached the third floor of some buildings.

In August 2005, heavy rains and landslides killed at least 47 across China. Thirty two people were killed in the central province of Hubei.

In July 2006, the worst rains in 45 years in Anhui and Jiangsu Provinces left 30 people dead and destroyed more than 14,000 buildings.

In June 2006, 53 people were killed after flash floods ripped through Guizhou Province in southwestern China. Nearly 1,300 homes collapsed in Wangmo and Luodian counties after 211 millimeters of rain fell during a four-hour downpour. In the previous two weeks more 93 people were killed as a result of torrential rains in southern China. Twenty-nine people were killed and 50,000 were evacuated and 23,000 homes were destroyed in Fujian Province, where some places received more than 20 centimeters of rain.

Floods in China in 2007

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Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtzee
during normal conditions
In May, June and July 2007, more than 700 people were killed and 119 million people---10 percent of China’s population---were affected by floods, lightning strikes and landslides, mostly in southern and central China. More than 220,000 houses and 6 million hectares of farmland were wholly or partially destroyed, causing $7 billions in damage. Some places struggled with near constant heavy rain for days on end. Some blamed global warming for the increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather.

Some of the worst flood occurred along 1) the Huai River in Anhui, Henan and Jiangsu Provinces; 2) and the Jiangsu River, a tributary of the Yangtze in Sichuan. Communities in the mountainous areas around Chongqing were particularly hard hit. Guangdong, Yunnan Guangxi and Guizhou were also hard hit. The flooding was the worst in China since 1998. Farmers suffered the most deaths and damage. Millions were forced to evacuate from their homes.

Some people in Yunnan died in violent mudflows. In Chongqing dozens died because the drainage system there was unable to accommodate large mounts of steady rain. In one instance 255 millimeters of rain fell there in a 14 hour period. In Shandong 49 people were killed in a storm that dropped 118 millimeters of rain in one hour. A heavy three-hour downpour there flooded the downtown area of provincial capital of Jinan. According to officials sources 34 people were killed in and around the city but according to one Internet posting more than 100 died in downtown Jinan when a busy supermarket became flooded.

In May 2007, landslides triggered by heavy rains on Garze, a Tibetan region in Sichuan, killed 21 people, buried a village and knocked a bus off a highway. Twelve died in the village and nine died in the bus. Another 340 people were left homeless. .

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Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtzee
during high water period
In July 2007, several rivers, including the Yangtze and the Huai, overflowed their banks and left hundreds of thousands homeless. A half million people in Anhui. Henan and Jiangsu fled a deadly flood zone along the swollen Huai River caused by continuous rains through much of June and July. Water had been diverted into other rivers and designated low fields but still waters reached dangerous levels. People in the normally dry provinces of Gansu and Xinjiang were swept away by rain-swollen rivers Heavy rains in Shaanxi in the northeast killed 30 people and cut off roads and telecommunications. More than 8,000 houses were affected by landslides and 35,000 people were left homeless.

In August 2007, heavy rainstorms killed at least 31 people in Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces. Seventeen people in Yibin County in Sichuan died in a landslide. Fourteen people in Zhaotong City in Yunnan died in landslides and floods.

While southern China was experiencing floods northern China was enduring droughts that left 11 million people short of drinking water.

Mice Attack, Floods and Drought in China

In the summer of 2007, the combination of a long drought followed by floods produced an infestation of mice around Dongting Lake in Hunan Province that destroyed thousands of acres of crops and damaging important dikes by burrowing through them to reach crops. By some estimates 2 billion eastern field mice---known locally as rats---overran 22 counties around the lake.

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rainfall in June 2010
The were reports of houses in Hunan being inundated with mice driven from their holes by flood waters. A farmer who woke up one morning to find his fields destroyed by mice told the Washington Post, “You can hear them as they bite the rice---chir, chir chir. It’s deafening.” Another said, “You can easily step on them just by walking on the road, there are so many.”

A massive mice cull was conducted and people were put on the alert for rodent-caused disease. Efforts to poison them worked to some degree but also killed cats, dogs, cows, chickens and pigs. Television footage showed residents of Yoyang city beating mice to death with clubs and shovels. Others were caught with fishing nets and drowned and poisoned. Over a five week period 2.3 million mice---90 tons of them---were killed. Most were buried in deep pits under layers of lime o prevent the spread of disease.

A drought that lasted through much of the fall, winter and spring, reduced the water levels in Lake Dongting Lake around the cities of Bianhu and Yueyand in Hunan, producing condition ideal for mice breeding. When the gates of the sluice on Three Gorges Dam were opened to relieve flooding water from the Yangtze poured into the lake, causing the mice to flee for high ground. Witnesses said the scene was like a movie about the Apocalypse.

Overpopulations of mice are also being blamed on the harvesting of snakes for food. Snakes can consume up to 400 mice year. To prevent a rat infestation in the future around Dongting Lake there is some discussion of erecting a 40-kilometer-long, one meter-high wall to keep the rats out. Environmentalists say human activity, namely those that have led to a decrease in natural enemies of rats such as snakes and owls, around the lake is the primary cause of the rat problem.

Heavy Rains and Floods in China in 2008 and 2009


floods in China
Heavy rains and flooding associated with the early summer rainy season in southern China in June 2008 killed at least 176 people and left 52 missing , destroyed or damaged 134,000 homes, flooded 23,000 square kilometers of farm land and homes, destroyed more than 2.32 hectares of crops, caused $4 billion in damage and forced more than 1.6 million people in nine provinces to seek higher ground.

State television showed submerged streets and houses along the Xinjiang River in Guangdong and Guangxi Provinces and people seeking refuge on the roofs of their houses. Soldiers and police worked through the night to shore up soggy levees and dams threatening to burst with sandbags. Fields of cucumbers, bitter melons and other vegetables were swamped.

In July 2008,Tropical Storm Fengshen killed at least nine people in southern China. A month later Tropical Storm Fung-wong produced floods that killed at least 11 people in eastern China. Rain in the wake of the storms lasted for three days, causing the Chuhe River in Anhui Province to swell and inundate more than 300,000 hectare of land.

In June 2008, a tornado in Anhui Province destroyed 650 homes and killed one person and injuring 45, eight seriously.

In July and August 2009, heavy rains in Sichuan, Jiangxi, Hunan and Guizhou Provinces left 66 people dead and 66 missing. Hundreds of houses collapsed and a dangerous hole was punched into the spillway of a dam. More than 100,000 people had to be relocated.

Heavy Rains and Floods in China in 2010


floods in Sichuan
China experienced its worst flooding in more than a decade in the summer of 2010. Floods, heavy rains and landslides left more than 4,300 people dead or missing, affected 230 million people, caused 15 million to evacuate their homes, caused of billions of dollars in damage, disrupted transportation lines, and toppled hundreds of thousands of houses. Heavy rains saturated mountain slops, causing them to collapse. Rain-swollen rivers swept people away. Three quarters of China’s provinces were affected and 25 rivers set record highs. The Yangtze was so high water was sent surging through the Three Gorges dam. Concerns were raised as to whether the dam was up the challenge. So many crops were destroyed there were sharp rises in food prices.

In late June and early July, torrential rains pounded southern China, forcing 3 million people from their homes. The provinces and region of Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangdong, Sichuan, Guizhou and Guangxi were affected. Flash flood were triggered; crops were inundated; and traffic and communication was disrupted.

Dikes were breached and rivers overflowed their banks in Fuzhou in Jiangxi Province. There soldiers and workers piled rock and sandbag to repair breaches as it prepared for more heavy rains. Premier Wen Jiabao visited rescue workers and people evacuated from flooded homes in Guangxi.

In August 2010, more than 250,000 people evacuated an area along the North Korean border after heavy rains fell there and swelled the Yala River. There were reports of collapsed houses and missing people. Among the dead were a couple in the 70s and a mother and son whose homes were washed away by flash floods.

A disaster was averted in Sichuan Province in late August when all the passengers on a passenger train were evacuated from a bridge on which the train was stuck before the bridge collapsed and several of the train’s carriages fell into the water. It took 10 minutes to evacuate the train. “Less than two minutes later, one carriage fell into the river, about 10 minutes after that, the other one fell in too,” an official told CCTV.

The worst flooding nearly half a century Hainan Island in October 2010 forced the evacuation of 130,000 people. At least 18 centimeters of rain fell in 16 cities on the island.

See Trains.

Floods in the Summer of 2011


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More than 460 people have died or gone missing in China since June, after extreme summer weather triggered huge floods and deadly landslides, government authorities said. Torrential downpours have pummelled large swathes of China since the beginning of last month, wreaking havoc in some areas where mudslides and flash floods have torn through towns, killing and trapping countless people. The Ministry of Civil Affairs said that since June 1, rain-triggered natural disasters had left 355 people dead and 112 missing, and had forced the emergency evacuation of more than 2.3 million residents. [Source: AFP, July 18, 2011]

In June 2011 severe floods caused by relentless heavy rains struck central and southern China. Several major rivers became swollen and overflowed their banks, affecting millions and leaving scores dead or missing. Water Resources Minister Chen Lei warned that at least 10 major rivers in the affected areas were threatening to burst their banks. "Severe floods triggered by heavy rains will continue to threaten parts of southern China.," he said in remarks posted on his ministry's website. "There is an increasing possibility that downpours, with enhanced frequency and intensity, will continue to lash regions in the south." [Source: Dan Martin, AFP, June 20, 2011]

Dan Martin of AFP wrote, “Persistent rains since early June have swamped many areas across a wide swathe of China and the state weather bureau on Monday forecast continued downpours over the next three days, with the summer typhoon season approaching. More than 1.6 million people in 13 provinces, regions and municipalities had been evacuated from their homes from June 3-20 due to flooding, the civil affairs ministry said. The rains had left at least 261 people dead or missing while more than 36 million have been "affected" one way or another by the rain and flooding, it added.

Landslides and mudslides caused torrential rains have toppled homes. , and the that caused them are forecast to last through the weekend. Roads and railways have been blocked, but aid supplies are arriving. Heavy rains even struck the far-western Xinjiang region. Four people were reported missing in flash floods there Xinhua reported.

Xinhua reported: “The Ministry of Civil Affairs along with the National Disaster Reduction Commission launched an emergency response in anticipation of more downpours in central and southern China. Meanwhile, they ordered relief-supply reserve stations in 11 provinces and seven cities in these regions to gear up for the expected downpours. Local civil affairs departments were told to enhance measures and work closely with other related departments to prevent flooding, geographical disasters and other secondary disasters, which may be triggered by the rainfall. They were also told to help people by launching safety inspections, setting up temporary shelters, making emergency plans, and evacuating people in the most dangerous areas. [Source: Xinhua, June 13, 2011]

Floods in June 2011 in Southern China


flooding in Zheijiang
Dan Martin of AFP wrote, “A three-hour downpour dumped a near-record 312 millimetres (12.5 inches) of rain in Wangmo county in Guizhou province in the southwest, while over 200 millimetres of rain had fallen over short periods in other regions, Chen said. Several days of torrential rain in the southwestern province of Sichuan left nine people dead and 27 missing by Sunday, the country's weather forecaster said on its news website. In Yunnan, also in the southwest, five people were killed and another was missing after surging floodwaters swept through a pair of rural villages during a hailstorm on Sunday, Xinhua said. [Source: Dan Martin, AFP, June 20, 2011]

Landslides crushed parts of a railway line in southwestern China, stranding 5,000 passengers on four trains overnight and affecting train service, local railway authorities said Friday. Over 2,000 rescuers with 10 excavators rushed to clear the Chengdu-Kunming railway, which links the provincial capitals of Sichuan and Yunnan, the Chengdu Railway Bureau said in a statement, according to Xinhua. The bureau has sent food and water to the trapped passengers, and buses to evacuate them, the statement said.

Xinhua reported: “ Rain-triggered flooding and landslides in south China have left 105 people dead and 63 more missing over the past 10 days, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said Monday. According to the official count, as of 10 am on June 12, the rain-caused disasters that occurred since June 3 have left 39 people dead and 21 more missing in Hunan Province. In Guizhou Province 24 people died... according to the ministry. [Source: Xinhua, June 13, 2011]

Floods in June 2011 in Eastern China


90-foot tidal wave
AP reported: “China says more than 2 million people have been displaced or otherwise affected by flooding in the eastern province of Zhejiang. The official Xinhua News Agency says torrential rains have left huge areas of the relatively wealthy province underwater, with 171,000 hectare of farmland inundated. Xinhua reported that almost 1,000 businesses have been forced to suspend operations and 2.6 million people have had their lives disrupted. In eastern Zhejiang, the province's main river is at its highest level since 1955, China's flood control agency said. The Qiantang River was 7.9 feet (2.4 meters) above safety levels, it said.Elsewhere in the coastal province, a dike breached and flooded 18 villages while landslides toppled about 2,500 houses and flooded 350 roads, Xinhua said. [Source: Louise Watt, Associated Press, June 17, 19 2011]

Dan Martin of AFP wrote, ‘state television broadcast footage of the flooded streets of Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province in the centre of the country. Newspapers carried photos of crowded boats evacuating stranded villagers and numerous flooded roads. In the east of the country, a 30-metre-deep sinkhole slashed into a highway.” [Source: Dan Martin, AFP, June 20, 2011]

“Authorities have evacuated 292,000 people from along the Qiantang river in Zhejiang province on the east coast after heavy rains caused the river to swell dangerously, official Xinhua news agency said. Dykes stretching more than 70 kilometres (40 miles) along the Lan river in the Zhejiang city of Lanxi were at risk of bursting and authorities were preparing evacuation plans for residents in the area, the agency added. Heavy rains have caused the river's water levels to rise sharply, with the Lan reaching its highest mark since 1966, it said. The Lan was already overflowing at some points while other dyke sections were barely holding.” [Ibid]

“Authorities have put direct economic losses in Zhejiang province alone at 7.69 billion yuan ($1.19 billion) -- and fruit and vegetable prices have soared by as much as 40 percent after the heavy rains destroyed crops, Xinhua said. The storms have come as a jarring change for provinces including Hubei, Anhui, and Zhejiang, parts of which had until recently sweltered under the worst drought in decades.” [Ibid]

Xinhua reported: Prior to the rain, the provinces of Hubei, Hunan and Jiangxi - located along the middle and lower parts of the Yangtze River basin - were stricken by a prolonged drought. According to the official count, as of 10 am on June 12, the rain-caused disasters that occurred since June 3 have left 29 dead....In Jiangxi the death-toll stood at 13, according to the ministry.

Heavy Rain in Beijing in the Summer of 2012 Kills Dozens

In July 2012, AFP reported: “The death toll from the worst rains to hit Beijing in more than 60 years has risen to 77, more than doubling previous figures, China’s official Xinhua news agency said.Beijing authorities had announced that 37 people had died after freak rains caused rivers to burst their banks and flood major highways, submerging large numbers of vehicles. Many residents of China’s sprawling capital had expressed doubts about the official toll, believing the true figure to be much higher. [Source: AFP, July 27, 2012 >>>]

“In the worst-hit area of Fangshan, on the city’s mountainous southwestern outskirts, distraught residents reported cars being swept away and said many people were still missing. Many people took to China’s microblog-like weibos to criticise the official response to the disaster in the capital, which came at a time of heightened political sensitivity ahead of a 10-yearly handover of power. >>>

“Some said the scale of the death and destruction could have been lessened if the government had issued better warnings, including by SMS, and modernised Beijing’s ancient drainage systems. But many of the more critical posts were deleted from the Internet, apparently by censors.China’s state-run media was ordered to stick to positive stories or ordinary people’s heroism during the disaster, leading to accusations of an official cover-up. Beijing city spokeswoman Wang Hui insisted earlier this week that authorities would not cover up the true number of deaths, acknowledging that the lack of official updates had given rise to public suspicion. >>>

Associated Press reported: “ Recent heavy rains across much of China have left nearly 100 people dead, state media said. More than a third of the fatalities were in the flood-ravaged capital, where some residents questioned whether the city's rapid push for modernization came at the expense of basic infrastructure such as drainage networks. Authorities in Beijing were still trying to pump water from sections of flooded highway after the torrential downpour, the city's heaviest rain in six decades. The city government said 37 people died: 25 drowned, six were killed when houses collapsed, one was hit by lightning and five were electrocuted by fallen power lines. Beijing residents shared photos online of submerged cars stranded on flooded streets, city buses with water up to commuters' knees and cascades of water rushing down the steps of overpasses. Nearly 57,000 people were evacuated from their homes and damage from the storm reached at least 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion), according to a report by the Beijing Daily newspaper on the Beijing government website. Heavy rain also proved deadly elsewhere in the country. The official Xinhua News Agency reported late Monday that 95 people had died and 45 were still missing across 17 Chinese provinces and municipalities, including Beijing. It cited the Civil Affairs Bureau. [Source: Alexa Olesen, Associated Press, July 23, 2012]

The rain knocked down trees in Beijing and trapped cars and buses in waist-deep water in some areas. In Tongzhou district on the capital’s eastern outskirts, two people were killed by collapsed roofs, one person was fatally struck by lightning and a fourth was electrocuted by a fallen power line as he helped neighbors escape, the government’s Xinhua News Agency said. [Source: Associated Press, July 21 2012 <=>]

“Elsewhere, six people were killed by rain-triggered landslides in Sichuan province in the west, Xinhua said, citing disaster officials. Four people died in Shanxi province in the north when their truck was swept away by a rain-swollen river. The government warned of more storms over the following 24 hours for China’s northeast, the port city of Tianjin east of Beijing, Inner Mongolia in the north, Sichuan and neighboring Yunnan province, and Guangdong and Hainan provinces in the southeast. <=>

China suffers flooding and dozens of storm-related deaths every summer rainy season, but such a heavy downpour in relatively dry Beijing is unusual. The capital’s suburban Fangshan district received 460 millimeters (18.4 inches) of rain, breaking a record set in 1951, the weather bureau said. It said suburban Pinggu district got 100.3 millimeters (4 inches) of rain in one hour. A flash flood in Fangshan stranded 104 primary school students and nine teachers at a military training site, Xinhua said. It said they were in no immediate danger and that rescuers had taken food to them. Some 14,500 people were evacuated from parts of Beijing, Xinhua said. The Beijing News said they included 5,200 people who left areas in Fangshan that were vulnerable to landslides. <=>

Drains and the Rains in Beijing in 2012

During the heavy rains in Beijing in 2012, Associated Press reported: “Although Beijing's worst-hit areas were in rural hilly outskirts of the city, the scale of the disaster was a major embarrassment for China's showcase capital, where such things are not supposed to happen. The city has seen tens of billions of dollars poured into its modernization, including iconic venues for the 2008 Olympics, the world's second-largest airport, new subway lines and dazzling skyscrapers. But the floods raised questions about whether basics like drainage were neglected. "If so much chaos can be triggered in Beijing, the capital of the nation, problems in urban infrastructure of many other places can only be worse," said a commentary in Monday's state-run Global Times newspaper. "In terms of drainage technology, China is decades behind developed societies." The criticism mirrors some of that seen after a high-speed train crash that killed 40 people in Wenzhou in southeastern China in 2011. That turned into a public-relations nightmare for the government and led many to question the quality of infrastructure in the country and the government's transparency on disasters.[Source: Alexa Olesen, Associated Press, July 23, 2012]

The China Daily reported: “Has rainwater drainage system received enough attention in our urbanization drive over the past few decades? Beijing authorities have admitted that the capital's drainage system leaves much to be desired. It could drain out rainwater only if precipitation is 30 millimeters or less an hour. That is also true of most cities across the country. The deluge in Beijing has led to dozens of deaths and an estimated economic loss of 10 billion yuan ($1.56 billion). These losses could have been avoided had the capital done a better job of its drainage system during its urbanization drive over the past decades. [Source: China Daily, July 24, 2012 :::]

“Beijing will gradually improve its drainage system and upgrade the pumping stations to drain out rainwater from under its underpasses in urban districts before 2015, after which even a precipitation of 60 millimeters an hour is unlikely to cause inundation. Apparently, many cities will have to do the same. China's urbanization process is far from over, and many prefecture- and county-level cities are yet to start large-scale construction or are in the middle of their urbanization drive. The embarrassment many big cities face because of rainstorms should remind planners to pay adequate attention to the designing and building of a foolproof drainage system. Futuristic buildings and wide streets can be enjoyed only if they are supported by a sound utility system, which includes large sewers and efficient pumping stations. :::

“If a sound drainage system is built in advance, the cost would undoubtedly be lower than when it needs to be upgraded or rebuilt after a city has completed its urbanization drive above ground. But for that urban planners need to have a broad vision for future development. "In just one day, it rained as much as it normally rains in six months in Beijing," said Zhang Junfeng, a senior engineer from the Ministry of Transport who runs weekend tours of Beijing reservoirs and gives lectures on water conservancy. "No drainage system can withstand rains this big." :::

“In Qinglonghu, a village about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from downtown Beijing where many migrant workers from surrounding provinces have settled, at least two dozen brick homes were flooded. Local residents said they were terrified to go back into their homes for fear they would collapse. They said they were sleeping outside, had no drinking water or food and had yet to get any assistance from local officials. :::

“At least three people from the village were believed killed, residents said, including a man crushed by a falling power line and a woman and her 8-month-old baby who were washed away. "No one wants something like this to happen," said Cao Fuxiang, the woman's cousin. "Life is so difficult. We left our town to make some money and now she has disappeared." Piles of dirt from a large construction site in Qinglonghu appeared to have formed a dam that kept the downpour from draining into a river, worsening the rain's damage.” :::

Flooding After Dam Collapses in Shanxi

In February 2013, China.org reported: “An area near a water reservoir in north China's Shanxi province has been evacuated after part of its dam wall collapsed, causing flooding, said a local official. The top of an irrigation water duct of Quting Reservoir in Hongtong county caved in around 7am on Friday, leading to the partial collapse of its dam walls, said the official. No casualties have been reported as residents downstream were evacuated. The Ministry of Water Resources has sent a work team to the scene to deal with the flooding. Workers are using sand bags and other materials to seal the breach. The irrigation water duct was established in 1959. Its old age was one cause of the collapse, according to local officials. [Source: China.org, February 17, 2013]

CCTV reported: “The top of an irrigation water duct at the Quting Reservoir in Hongtong County in Shanxi Province has caved in, leading to the partial collapse of its dam walls and flooding. Local officials said no casualties have been reported so far. Residents downstream were evacuated shortly after Friday’s partial collapse. The Ministry of Water Resources has sent a work team to the scene to deal with the flooding. Workers are using sand bags and other materials to seal the breach.Only one million cubic meters of water out of the 18 million the dam was holding, was left. The flooding has disrupted transportation in the area, with many trains being delayed or cancelled at Linfen station. The irrigation water duct was built in 1959. Local officials said its old age was one cause of the collapse. [Source: CCTV English, February 17,2013]

Southern China rains Kill 55, Leave 14 Missing in May 2013

In May 2013, Associated Press reported: “Chinese authorities say rainstorms that battered southern China this week have killed 55 people and left 14 others missing.The Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs website says at least nine provinces have had storms and some flooding and landslides since Tuesday. It says Guangdong province has been hit the hardest, with 36 deaths and 10 missing people, followed by Jiangxi province, where six people are reported dead and four more missing.Guangdong's weather service forecasts more heavy rain along with thunder, strong wind gusts and hail in the coming days and warns of flooding and mudslides. [Source: Associated Press, May 18, 2013]

Flooding in Western China in July, 2013 Kills Dozens

In July 2013, Associated Press reported: “Floodwaters surging through Himalayan foothills in western China have swept bridges, houses and hillsides into roiling brown rivers, leaving at least 25 people dead and dozens missing as heavy rains buffet many parts of the country. Flooding in the western province of Sichuan was the worst in 50 years for some areas, with more than 100,000 people forced to evacuate. Nationwide, at least 44 people have died, around 66 were missing, and at least 1.6 million have been otherwise affected since Sunday, according to figures from the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the official Xinhua News Agency. Thousands of homes have been destroyed or damaged and transportation brought to a virtual standstill in hard-hit areas. [Source: Associated Press, July 11, 2013]

Many of the casualties in Sichuan were from a massive landslide that struck a scenic resort outside the city of Dujiangyan. An entire hillside collapsed onto clusters of holiday cottages where city dwellers escape summer heat, a survivor told the official Xinhua News Agency. "The noise was like thunder and went on for two or three minutes. My first thought was that I too would be buried," Gao Quanshi, 47, was quoted as saying. Phone lines were cut, so villagers had to trek to nearby government offices to call for help, he said.

Flooding in Sichuan has affected 360,000 people, damaging or destroying 300 homes, and forcing at least 6,100 emergency evacuations, state media reported. Images from the scene showed a valley filled with mud and rocks with only the tops of trees sticking through. Drenched rescuers wearing helmets and life jackets worked mostly with hand tools to prevent harming any survivors still trapped beneath. A total of 352 tourists had been rescued from the area Xinhua said. Overall in Sichuan, there were are least 25 dead and around 50 missing, state media reports said.

In some areas the current floods are already the worst in half a century. Reports said the 94 centimeters (37 inches) of rainfall that fell on Dujiangyan over 40 hours beginning on Monday was the heaviest since records began being kept in 1954. Also in the west, more than 2,000 people were rescued after being trapped for several hours Wednesday in a highway tunnel between Dujiangyan and Wenchuan — the epicenter of the Sichuan earthquake five years ago that left 90,000 people dead or missing. Bridges have been closed and train service suspended in some parts of the province. In nearby Beichuan county, flooding destroyed buildings and wrecked exhibits at a memorial for earthquake victims. The flooding also caused the collapse of an almost 50-year-old bridge in a neighboring county, sending six vehicles into the raging waters and leaving 12 people missing.

The region lies in the foothills of the Tibetan Plateau, where mountains rise sharply from the densely populated Sichuan basin. Fast-running rivers quickly overflowed their banks, flooding scores of towns and parts of the provincial capital of Chengdu, where the waters rose to the second floor and covered the tops of cars. In Chengdu, stone bridges and brick houses along river banks were swept away, including one in which the residents were taking shelter, while others crumbled into the saturated earth already rent with fissures from the 8.9 magnitude 2008 earthquake.

In the northern province of Shanxi, meanwhile, at least 12 workers were killed when a violent rainstorm caused the collapse of an unfinished coal mine workshop they were building. Another three people were drowned in a car in Hebei province outside the capital, while an additional 11 people were reported dead or missing in Yunnan province, Beijing, Inner Mongolia, and Gansu province.

Image Sources: 1) Landsberger Posters http://www.iisg.nl/~landsberger/; 2) Nolls China website http://www.paulnoll.com/China/index.html ; 3) Columbia University; 4, 7,8 ) NASA ; 5, 6) Xinhua

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated July 2013

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