In recent weeks, heavy rains have caused severe flooding and landslides across large swaths of southern China, damaging homes, crops and roads.
In Hunan province this month, 10 people were killed, three are missing, with 286,000 people evacuated and a total of 1.79 million people affected, officials said at a press conference on Wednesday.
More than 2,700 houses collapsed or were severely damaged and 96,160 hectares of crops were destroyed – a heavy loss for the province, which serves as China’s major center of rice production. According to official figures, direct economic losses are estimated at more than 4 billion yuan ($600 million).
Late last month, floods and landslides killed eight people in coastal Fujian province, five people in southwestern Yunnan province and two children swept away in Guangxi province.
Summer floods are a common occurrence in China, especially in densely populated agricultural areas along the Yangtze River and its tributaries. But scientists have been warning for years that the climate crisis will exacerbate extreme weather, making them deadlier and more frequent.
Global warming has already made extreme precipitation more intense in the East Asian region, including in southern China. The intensity and frequency of extreme rainfall is expected to increase as the Earth warms, the latest science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows. The number of strong tropical cyclones has also increased.
The tragedy swept across the country, raising the question of how prepared Chinese cities are for extreme weather.