South China floods force tens of thousands to evacuate, rescue efforts underway

South China floods force tens of thousands to evacuate, rescue efforts underway

Major flooding has forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people in southern China, with more rain expected.

Much of the flooding has affected Guangdong, China’s most populous province, where the flood alert rose to Level I, the highest, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Around half a million people have been displaced, largely in the cities of Shaoguan, Heyuan and Meizhou.

Authorities asked residents of communities along river banks and in low-lying neighborhoods to move to higher ground, after floodwaters hit a 50-year high.

A man in hi-vis orange squats down at railway tracks that are almost covered in brown floodwater
A worker checks a section of flooded railway in Shangrao in central China’s Jiangxi province.(Chinatopix via AP)

The heavy rainfall has collapsed roads in some parts of cities and swept away houses, cars and crops, and more rain is forecast for coming days.

Rescuers were seen assisting people into speedboats and transporting them over floodwater.

A large cluster of high-rise buildings now appears an island floating in brown water
Flood waters now completely envelope Wuyuan County.(Xinhua: Wang Guohong, via AP)

Military personnel were deployed to place sandbags along the banks of the Beijiang River.

In nearby Jiangxi province, the floodwaters inundated the homes of an additional 485,000 people.

In Zhejiang province north of Guangdong, rescue crews in inflatable boats brought out residents trapped in their homes in inundated villages.

A rescue worker holds a small child through a flooded doorway
Rescue workers evacuate a child from a flooded building following heavy rainfall in Xinli village.(Reuters)

Further north, storm warnings were issued for much of the eastern provinces, including the capital Beijing, while reservoirs in the central province of Henan were at flood level and releasing torrents of water downstream.

China regularly experiences flooding during the summer months, most frequently in central and southern areas that tend to receive the most rainfall.

A wide shot of an indoor sports complex, now full of camping beds.  People mill around the room.
Thousands have been moved from their homes into evacuation centres.(PA)

This year’s flooding is the worst in decades in some areas and comes on top of strict COVID-19 regulations that have strangled travel, employment and ordinary life in much of the country.

China’s worst floods in recent years were in 1998, when more than 2,000 people died and almost 3 million homes were destroyed.

The government has invested heavily in flood control and hydro power projects.

Globally, more intense tropical storms are on the rise as a result of climate change, leading to increased flooding that threatens lives, crops and groundwater.

AP/Reuters

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