Since June, devastating floods have impacted 38 million people — more than the entire population of Canada. Some 2.24 million residents have been displaced, with 141 people dead or missing, the Ministry of Emergency Management said Monday.
The flooding is likely to complicate those recovery efforts. Some of the worst affected areas include many of the regions hardest hit by the coronavirus, just months after they emerged from strict lockdown measures.
While summer flooding is a common reoccurrence in China due to the seasonal rains, this year’s deluge is particularly bad. It has hit 27 out of the 31 provincial regions in mainland China, and in some places, water levels have reached perilous heights not seen since 1998, when massive floods killed more than 3,000 people.
The majority of these rivers are in the vast basin of the Yangtze River, which flows from west to east through the densely populated provinces of central China. The river is the longest and most important waterway in the country, irrigating large swathes of farmland and linking a string of inland industrial metropolises with the commercial hub of Shanghai on the eastern coast.
Sweeping floodwaters left a trail of devastation, ravaging 8.72 million acres of farmland, destroying 28,000 homes and in some cases submerging entire towns.
According to state news agency Xinhua, by Sunday, the floods had caused 82.23 billion yuan ($11.75 billion) of economic losses nationwide.
In central China’s Hubei province, which accounted for more than 80% all of China coronavirus cases, historic levels of rainfall were recorded in several cities, causing widespread floods and landslides. As of Thursday, more than 9 million residents have been affected in the province of 60 million people, causing 11.12 billion yuan ($1.59 billion) of economic losses, Xinhua reported.
Further downstream on the Yangtze River, in eastern Jiangxi province, the water levels in China’s biggest freshwater lake, the Poyang Lake, rose to a historic high of 22.52 meters (74 feet), well above the alert level of 19.50 meters (64 feet), according to Xinhua.
As of Sunday afternoon, floods had disrupted the lives of over 5.5 million people in the province, with nearly half a million evacuated from their homes, China’s state-broadcaster CCTV reported.
The flooding is unlikely to subside as more heavy rains are forecast for the coming days. On Tuesday, the China Meteorological Administration issued a blue alert for heavy rain from Tuesday to Saturday in multiple provinces in the country, including Sichuan, Hubei, Anhui, Jiangsu and Zhejiang.