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Deadly flooding in China worsens as rescues continue and areas downriver brace for high water

Although the nation appeared to have avoided the worst effects of the typhoon season hitting portions of East Asia, northern and eastern China were threatened on Friday by heavy rain and rising flood levels on rivers, forcing the evacuation of thousands.

Alerts were issued for numerous cities in Hebei province, which has Beijing’s capital on three sides. In preparation for potentially lethal floods, the province of Heilongjiang in the north began to evacuate entire villages.

Rescue efforts are still going on. Following the weekend storms that quickly overloaded drainage systems, at least 20 people have been confirmed dead and another 27 are missing in Beijing’s outlying suburbs.

Deadly flooding in China worsens

Beijing’s summers are typically dry, but this year’s record-breaking heat wave abruptly ended over the weekend with nearly a week of nonstop rain and drizzle.

A large portion of the city’s power was knocked out, summer classes and public transportation were cancelled, and residents were advised to stay inside.

Tianjin and Zhuozhou, two nearby cities, were also severely affected. Hundreds of people were saved by fire departments working with volunteer rescue organisations as they searched apartment buildings and railroad tunnels for stranded people.

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Beijing has received special protection against flooding through the diversion of waters to nearby regions due to its significance as the nation’s capital, the seat of the Communist Party in power, and the location of cultural relics like the old Forbidden City.

This allegedly caused flooding in the surrounding neighborhoods, which might have been prevented if the precipitation had been drained through the city’s network of canals and rivers, according to concerns posted on social media on Friday.

Other areas have had unusually deadly summer flooding, particularly in the south of China.

Drought is affecting other regions of the country, adding to the already difficult situation of the nation’s 1.4 billion inhabitants due to the disruption of grain imports brought on by Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Muddy water rushing down the roads washed away cars in the steep Mentougou area on Beijing’s western border.

Liu Shuanbao, a resident, reported that a few vehicles that were parked behind his apartment building vanished in less than a minute.

Around 125,000 people from high-risk locations were relocated to shelters in Zhuozhou, southwest of Beijing, according to Xinhua.

President Xi Jinping has given local governments instructions to make “all-out efforts” to free trapped people and reduce casualties and property damage.

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35,000 people were reportedly evacuated from the area around the flooded Yongding River, according to the administration of Tianjin, a port city east of Beijing.

According to the Hebei province weather bureau, rainfall in certain areas has reached 500 millimetres (nearly 20 inches) since Saturday.

Rainfall rates of up to 90 millimetres (3 1/2 inches) per hour were recorded in certain places.

According to Xinhua, which cited the Ministry of Water Resources, 13 rivers in the Haihe Basin, which encompasses Beijing, Tianjin, and Shijiazhuang, surpassed alert limits.

It said, citing emergency personnel, that over 42,000 people had been evacuated from parts of Shanxi province to the west of Hebei.

Early in July, floods in Chongqing’s southwest region claimed the lives of at least 15 people, while Liaoning’s far northwest province, which is home to 5,590 people, required an evacuation.

Residents in the Hubei province in central China were confined to their houses and cars by downpours.

In 1998, China saw its deadliest and most damaging floods in recent memory, killing 4,150 people, the majority of whom were located around the Yangtze River.

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In the central province of Henan in 2021, flooding claimed the lives of almost 300 individuals.

On July 20 of that year, a record amount of rain swamped the provincial capital of Zhengzhou, turning the streets into raging rivers and drowning at least a portion of a subway line, trapping people inside the moving vehicles.

Authorities in the eastern Shandong province also issued a flood warning due to the rising water levels on the Zhangwei River.

Typhoon Khanun, which on Thursday pounded Japan, damaged homes, and knocked out power on Okinawa and other islands, mainly missed China.

The typhoon was previously predicted to make landfall in the southeasterly province of Zhejiang when local officials called ships into port and suspended passenger ferry services.

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