Widespread flooding aggravates China's woes

A resurgence of the coronavirus is only one of the country's problems at the moment

by Chris Gill
Widespread flooding aggravates China's woes
This aerial photo shows submerged fields and inundated buildings after heavy rain caused flooding in Rongan in China's southern Guangxi region on June 10, 2020. Floods and mudslides in southern China have uprooted hundreds of thousands of people and left dozens dead or missing, state media reported. STR / AFP

(ATF) China is suffering its worst floods in 70 years. The coronavirus has returned, closing the capital with a more virulent strain. And in parts of eastern Jiangsu there is a fire situation, while in western China a locust problem is emerging.

Chinese media is being heavily censored so it is only possible to get glimpses of what is happening across the country. 

A yellow flood warning was issued on Wednesday June 24 – one of many in China in recent days – by Jiangxi Provincial Hydrological Bureau and the eastern province's Meteorological Observatory.

Forecasters said torrential rain was likely to cause small and medium-sized river floods and heavy flash floods in eastern Shangrao, northern Ganzhou, northwest and southwest Ji'an, plus central Nanchang for 24 hours from 8pm on Wednesday night.

On Tuesday night there was speculation that intense rain over catchment areas that feed into the Yangtze River would cause a giant flood that would test the Three Gorges Dam. But news about the world's biggest dam is being kept under a tight wrap.

Given the dramas that have already occurred this year. People appear to be speculating on the dire circumstances that have befallen the country – the worst economic crisis since the 1960s and thousands killed by the coronavirus, which flared in Beijing last week and has spread to neighbouring provinces. 

Videos have emerged on social media showing fish behaving bizarrely – leaping out of rivers into the air en masse. According to Chinese tradition, all that is needed is a major earthquake to signal the fall of the current dynasty.

According to reports from Chinese dissident media, NTD, the Three Gorges Dam opened its floodgates without warning the many millions who live downstream. And today (June 24), China Central Television had a video of Yingshan in Hubei, where the village branch secretary was swept away by the flood on the way to help rescue others.

The Ministry of Water Resources has sent its deputy minister and senior design officials to investigate the dam situation, but as it is all behind a great wall of secrecy it's hard to know what they are doing.

The authorities have said more than 400 reservoirs have burst their banks, but did not reveal if the Three Gorges was one of these (it has a vast reservoir 600km long). Some villagers have told dissident media outlets that the unannounced overflow of floodwater had killed people while they slept.

Officials promised two weeks ago that they would protect the people in Hubei province from further trauma, given the hardship they endured early this year when Wuhan was the epicentre of the initial Covid-19 outbreak.

'Worst flood in a century'

Chinese emergency services are on full alert. The last big flood saw the heroes of the PLA celebrated in a  state opera. The flooding is widespread across the country. For example, Napo County in Baise City, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region was swamped by the worst flood in a century. Rare heavy rain hit Napo County, causing severe flooding and the whole county was surrounded by water.

According to a video released by netizens, the county has become a vast ocean, with houses and vehicles flooded. Houses were washed away by the flood and some roads collapsed. They said it is the worst flood in nearly 100 years.

Local media reported: “Suddenly, a street turned into a river, and huge waves rolled down carrying a variety of furniture and goods. The rolling doors of some street shops were opened by the flood, and electric cars and other objects in the houses were washed out of the house by the flood. Houses, poorly built, were washed away."

Napo County is surrounded by mountains, on the southwest border of Guizhou, and connected to Jingxi County in the southeast, and adjacent to Funing County in Yunnan Province in the northwest.

Besides flooding, officials have issued alerts on locusts spreading from Pakistan. The most recent record of locusts in China are mainly from the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and during the early liberation period, locust plagues occurred in Henan, Xinjiang and other places. 

But conditions are said to be ripe for locust swarms this year.

In Beijing, the local disease control officials say the current coronavirus strain is much more virulent than the one that hit Wuhan earlier in the year. They estimate it is between two to 10 times more infectious. Roads and other routes out of the city are closed and monitored except to commercial traffic.

ALSO SEE: Flood alert at Three Gorges Dam