Torrential rains kill 25 in southern China as climate change intensifies flood seasons

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.

Chinese authorities are on high alert for this year’s flood season, which began this month after 398 people died in devastating floods caused by unprecedented rainfall in the central province of Henan last summer.

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.

'Once in a thousand years' rains devastate central China but say little about climate change
In Henan province, which traditionally does not experience regular flooding, in July last year, some meteorological stations experienced a downpour that authorities called “once in a thousand years.”
The provincial capital of Zhengzhou, which accounts for most of the fatalities, was ill-prepared for the flood. City officials failed to heed five consecutive red warnings for heavy rain, which should have prompted authorities to stop gatherings and suspend classes and work. Flood water poured into the city’s subway tunnels, trapping hundreds of passengers and killing 12 of them.

The tragedy swept across the country, raising the question of how prepared Chinese cities are for extreme weather.

Ahead of this year’s flood season, Chinese authorities have warned that a large number of “extreme weather events” are expected in the country. Extreme heavy rains are likely to hit the southern and southwestern regions of the country, as well as southern Tibet. according to the National Climate Center of China.
This was announced in April by the Ministry of Housing and Urban and Rural Development and the National Development and Reform Commission. Chinese cities learn from the Zhengzhou disaster and do everything possible to prevent flooding of cities, given the “acute impact of extreme weather events” this year.

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