Published: 11:29, July 5, 2023 | Updated: 11:34, July 5, 2023
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Torrential rains displace thousands from homes
By Hou Liqiang

Summer downpours cause flooding, economic losses in parts of country

Armed police clean up mud in a street in Wanzhou district, Chongqing, on Tuesday. (LI DONG / FOR CHINA DAILY)

Heavy floods triggered by torrential rains have displaced thousands of people across the country as Beijing and areas nearby experienced a brief respite from recent scorching temperatures.

The country may continue to simultaneously suffer floods and sweltering heat waves this month, according to the Ministry of Emergency Management.

The rain was so heavy that the water level rose by over 1 meter within about 10 minutes.

Luo Jiashun, a resident of Mengke village in Baojing county, Hunan province

Downpours have battered parts of Hunan province since Thursday, with the Xiangxi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture one of the worst-hit areas, according to the province's flood and drought control headquarters.

Over 95,000 people in the prefecture have been affected, and more than 14,000 of them were relocated or evacuated, local authorities said on Sunday. Direct economic losses are estimated to be around 575 million yuan ($79.5 million).

"The rain was so heavy that the water level rose by over 1 meter within about 10 minutes," Luo Jiashun, a resident of Mengke village in the prefecture's Baojing county, recalled about the time when the rain started to pour down on Friday, triggering floods that left the lowlying village isolated.

Forty-four houses in the village were swamped, over 50 hectares of farmland were inundated and 163 residents were evacuated. Local authorities are still trying to restore water and power supplies to help get village life back to normal.

Shortly before 1 pm on Tuesday, the Xiangxi meteorological station issued a yellow alert for heavy rainfall, warning of maximum hourly precipitation of 24 millimeters from noon to 6 pm in Fenghuang county. The alert was soon upgraded to orange, as the latest forecast showed that the largest hourly precipitation from 1 pm to 4 pm may reach 36 mm.

China has a four-tier, color-coded weather alert system, with red representing the most severe warning, followed by orange, yellow and blue.

Local observatories in at least four counties in the prefecture also issued yellow or orange alerts for downpours on Tuesday afternoon.

In Zhenba county, Shaanxi province, downpours from 6 pm Sunday to 6 pm Monday forced the evacuation of more than 7,800 people, according to the emergency services bureau of Hanzhong city, where the county is located.

The bureau said workers are still laboring round the clock to clear 80 roads cut by floods and restore power supply to affected areas. Luckily, the rain subsided in the county on Tuesday.

In Sichuan province, local authorities have evacuated more than 85,300 people as of 7 am on Tuesday to avoid potential dangers from a downpour forecast to strike vast stretches from Monday to Tuesday.

The rain was expected to affect five prefecture-level cities, including Guang'an, Luzhou and Panzhihua, and parts of Yibin city and Garze Tibetan autonomous prefecture, bringing a maximum precipitation of 100 to 120 mm, Sichuan meteorological station said.

In Henan province, 66 of its 157 county-level areas were pummeled by heavy rainfall from 8 am Sunday to 7 am Monday, and 26 of them received more than 100 mm of precipitation. Downpours continued in many of the counties till Tuesday morning, local authorities said.

In Queshan county in the province, a car with five passengers was washed away by floods when it was passing a bridge on Monday evening. One of the passengers was saved, but the other four remain missing, according to media reports.

Many other regions were expected to experience torrential rains from Tuesday to Wednesday, according to the National Meteorological Center.

On Tuesday, the center renewed a blue alert for downpours, warning of maximum hourly precipitation of 20 to 50 mm in parts of the Inner Mongolia and Guangxi Zhuang autonomous regions, and Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, Yunnan and Guizhou provinces in the 24 hours starting 2 pm on Tuesday.

Precipitation in northern Liaoning may even reach 100 to 120 mm, the center said, adding that some areas in these regions may be hit by severe convective weather — a sudden and destructive weather phenomenon that often includes thunderstorms, hail, gales and heavy rain.

Sometimes spanning only 10 kilometers, such events can produce intense precipitation.

In contrast, a light rain that lasted from Monday night to Tuesday morning allowed Beijing to have some respite from heat waves with temperatures above 35 C. The capital, however, is forecast to be enveloped by sweltering heat with temperatures up to 38 C once again from Wednesday to Thursday.

According to the National Climate Center, the number of days with temperatures above 35 C in June in Beijing outpaced the same month in all other years since 1961.A tour guide was reported to have died of heatstroke in the capital on Sunday at the Summer Palace, as the scorching heat wave lingered in the city.

The Ministry of Emergency Management has warned of a grim situation for flood control and drought relief this month.

The precipitation in central and eastern parts of Northeast China, the northern part of Central China, and western part of Southwest China will receive more precipitation than the yearly average in July, it said.

It forecast floods in parts of the country's two longest watercourses — the Yangtze and the Yellow — and in some sections of Qiantang and Songhua rivers. Torrential rains may raise water levels in these rivers above their warning marks, it said.

It said higher temperatures and less precipitation are expected in many other areas, including the northern part of North China and some areas in Inner Mongolia.

"The supply of water and power will be relatively tight in these regions," it noted.