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Sichuan activates the highest level of flood control response for the first time on record, China


The Chinese province of Sichuan, located on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, has activated the highest level of flood control response for the first time on record on Tuesday, August 18, 2020, as rain-induced floods continue ravaging parts of the province. Meanwhile, the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei is facing the most severe floods since it was built in 2003 and the Tropical Storm "Higos" made landfall in Guangdong.

The Sichuan province is experiencing a new round of rain since August 10, prompting authorities to issue an orange rainstorm warning on two consecutive days for the first time this year. More than 200 000 people were forced to evacuate by August 19.

The rains intensified on August 15, with Mianzhu in Deyang recording 302.6 mm (11.9 inches) in 24 hours to August 16. During the same period, Beichuan in Mianyang City recorded 266.6 mm (10.5 inches) and Longquanyi District in Chengdu 264.3 mm (10.4 inches).

By August 19, 41 rivers in the province exceeded the warning level, with 22 of them exceeding the so-called safe level, currently set at twice the level of floodwaters seen during the flood season last year.

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YouTube video

The Qingyi river, an upper Yangtze tributary, had seen its worst flooding in a century, Sichuan's flood control authority said, with the city of Ya'an forced to evacuate more than 36 000 people as the river burst its banks on Monday, August 17.

The Yangtze and Huai river basins have seen the highest level of rainfall since records began in 1961, officials said.

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By August 20, the Three Gorges Dam in central China’s Hubei Province is expected to see the most severe round of floods since it was completed in 2003.

"According to a forecast by the Changjiang Water Resources Commission of the Ministry of Water Resources, the inbound flow of water is expected to reach more than 74 000 cubic meters per second after continuous heavy rain battered the upper reaches of the Yangtze River," Xinhua said.

The Three Gorges dam on August 13, 2020. Credit: Copernicus EU/Sentinel-2, Antonio Vecoli

Meanwhile, southern China was hit by Severe Tropical Storm "Higos." Higos made landfall over Zhuhai at peak intensity at around 22:00 UTC on August 18 (06:00 CST on August 19). 

At 06:00 UTC on August 19, Tropical Storm "Higos" was located about 125 km (75 miles) west of Hong Kong. Its maximum 10-minute sustained winds were 75 km/h (45 mph) with gusts up to 110 km/h (70 mph).

The minimum central barometric pressure was 998 hPa, and the system was moving west-northwestward at 20 km/h (13 mph).

Provinces of Hainan, Guangdong, Yunnan, and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region will have torrential rain starting from Wednesday, authorities said.

The emergency management department of Hainan has issued a typhoon alert, warning that fishing boats and other vessels should return to harbors.

Meteorologists also alerted the affected areas to take preventive measures and guard against secondary disasters. Tourists have been advised not to go out when heavy rain and gales hit the areas.

Featured image: Flood-hit Caoba Township, Ya'an City, Sichuan on August 18, 2020. Credit: Liu Kun/Xinhua


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