Five cities in the central Chinese province of Hubei have declared “red alerts” after torrential rain left 21 people dead and forced the evacuation of nearly 6,000 people, state media reported.
The deaths were recorded in the township of Liulin, part of the city of Suizhou in the north of the province.
According to a separate report by state-run Global Times newspaper, rainfall in some towns in Suizhou exceeded 100mm (3.9 inches) from Wednesday evening to Thursday morning, triggering the flooding.
Some shops along the roadside have been reportedly flooded with water levels reaching the second floor. The region is out of electricity and tap water, Hubei’s provincial rescue authority was quoted as saying by the state-run tabloid.
Rescue crews have been dispatched to the worst affected areas, including the cities of Suizhou, Xiangyang and Xiaogan, China’s Ministry of Emergency Management said.
The city of Yicheng also saw a record 400mm (15.7 inches) of rain on Thursday.
According to the official China News Service, as many as 774 reservoirs in Hubei had exceeded their flood warning levels by Thursday evening.
A total of 44 reservoirs in Yicheng have exceeded the flood limit, forcing the city to dispatch emergency rescue teams.
Extreme weather in the province has caused widespread power cuts and has damaged more than 3,600 houses and 8,110 hectares (20,040 acres) of crops.
Total losses were estimated at 108 million Chinese yuan ($16.67m), the official China Daily newspaper said on Friday, citing the province’s emergency management bureau.
More frequent flooding predicted
China regularly experiences flooding during its wet summer months, but authorities have warned that extreme weather is now becoming more frequent as a result of climate change.
In July, a study conducted by Greenpeace East Asia warned that China’s key urban centres, including the capital Beijing and its most populous city, Shanghai, could expect to face not only wetter rainy months but also hotter and longer summers due to climate change.
Greenpeace said cities like Shanghai, Suzhou, Wuxi, Changzhou, and Ningbo – urban areas that have the highest density in terms of population and economy – are particularly at risk of hazards from extreme rainfall.
In 2020, severe flooding affected many cities along the Yangtze River, Asia’s longest river. According to government data, more than 140 people were killed, 38 million others were affected and 28,000 homes destroyed in the worst flooding in the country in 30 years.
Only last weekend, about 80,000 were also evacuated in the southwestern province of Sichuan and record rainfall in Henan last month caused floods that killed more than 300 people.
The China Meteorological Administration warned that heavy rainstorms were likely to continue until next week, with regions along the Yangtze river vulnerable to flooding.
State weather forecasters also issued a geological disaster warning late on Thursday, saying areas at risk include the central provinces of Hubei, Hunan, Henan and Anhui, Chongqing, Sichuan and Guizhou in the southwest as well as Zhejiang on the eastern coast.