China on Monday issued flood alerts for 433 rivers in the country as torrential rain continued to wreak havoc in eastern, central and southern provinces, killing at least 141, rendering millions homeless and further battering a shrunk economy trying to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
At least 141 persons are missing or dead, dozens in mudslides triggered by heavy rainfall and overflowing rivers. Nearly 28,000 homes have been damaged, news agency Associated Press reported.
Water levels in at least 33 of the 433 rivers crisscrossing several provinces have broken decades-old records, triggering fears that the current deluge could mimic the massive floods of 1998, which killed more than 3000 people and ruined the livelihood of millions
The central Chinese province of Hubei and its capital Wuhan — where the coronavirus disease outbreak first emerged late last year and was put under the most severe lockdown in China — has witnessed some of the worst flooding with the Yangtze river flowing above the danger mark in the province. The province faces particular threat due to presence of numerous lakes and rivers, adding to the worsening levels of flooding.
President Xi Jinping was quoted by the state media as saying that the “flood control situation was grim”.
Parts of Sichuan, Chongqing, Shaanxi, Hubei, Henan, Anhui, Jiangsu, the metropolis of Shanghai and Zhejiang are forecast to receive rainfall of 100 to 180 mm over the next three days, according to a statement on the website of the national meteorological centre (NMC).
“Average rainfall reached 403 mm in the areas along the Yangtze river from June 1 to July 12, the highest level since 1961,” the official news agency, Xinhua reported on Monday.
The direct economic loss until now has been calculated at 82.23 billion yuan or $11.76 billion, according to state media. Key tourist destinations in China’s south have sustained flood damage, compounding financial stress caused by the massive drop-off in numbers of visitors.
The state-run tabloid, Global Times, headlined a report on the raging floods as “China faces flood catastrophe”.
One of the worst hit provinces is eastern China’s Jiangxi province where authorities have implemented “war time” measures following the water level in the Poyang lake, the largest freshwater lake in the country, crossing the 22.5 metres or 74 feet-mark, for the first time since 1998.
The water level in Taihu Lake, the country’s second-largest freshwater lake, has risen above the alert level for 15 consecutive days.
China’s ministry of water resources (MWR) has raised the emergency response to flood control to Level 11, the second highest in the system.
Hubei has raised the flood alert level to the highest.
The emergency management ministry (EMM) was quoted by state media as saying on Monday that a total of 37.89 million people in 27 provincial-level regions were affected, 141 people were killed or missing and 28,000 houses have collapsed.
A total of 2.25 million emergency evacuations have been made, the ministry said.
In a statement released to the state media, Xi has said the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and armed police troops stationed in flood-hit regions should actively participate in the rescue and relief work.
China has entered the critical period for flood control, Xi added.