As torrential rains continue to wreak havoc in China, President Xi Jinping has called for stronger measures to safeguard lives and property from severe flooding. The country’s scientists have also issued a warning, stating that July will bring more misery from extreme weather, including typhoons and high temperatures. The recent deluge claimed the lives of fifteen people in the metropolis of Chongqing and various regions of southwestern China, with four others reported missing, according to local officials and state media on Wednesday.
The devastating heavy rains have forced thousands of people to flee their homes in central China and have caused extensive destruction to bridges and properties. Shocking footage captured a building in southwest Chongqing collapsing into a raging torrent, while the national broadcaster reported the collapse of a railway bridge in the same region due to floodwater weakening its structure. Further, over 10,000 individuals were evacuated in central Hunan province, where dozens of buildings crumbled under the force of the floods, and initial damage estimates reached nearly 600 million yuan ($80 million).
As the disaster unfolds, flood warnings have now been issued for northern provinces, including Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang. China faces recurring severe flooding, and the impacts are likely to intensify with more frequent extreme weather driven by global warming. The Chinese meteorological authorities have warned that July will bring “multiple natural disasters,” encompassing floods, severe convection weather, typhoons, and high temperatures.
Adding to the country’s woes, Beijing experienced its hottest June since 2000, enduring temperatures over 35 degrees Celsius for 14 consecutive days. In Shaanxi province, heavy rains of a “once in fifty years” magnitude lashed the region over the weekend. China’s rapid urbanization, coupled with the global climate crisis, has put even major cities at risk of rising waters. In 2021, Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, witnessed devastating floods that turned streets into rivers and trapped commuters in flooded metro trains, some standing chest-deep in water. The catastrophe resulted in the loss of at least 12 lives.
Looking back at history, the deadliest floods occurred in 1998, claiming the lives of over 4,000 people, primarily along the Yangtze river. China, currently the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, accounting for approximately a quarter of all emissions contributing to global heating, has pledged to peak its emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.