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Historic rainfall in Hebei displaces 1.2 million people — more than a year’s worth in a couple of days, China

hebei china flood august 2023

The remnants of Typhoon “Doksuri” battered northern China from July 29 to August 1, 2023, unloading an entire year’s worth of rainfall and triggering devastating floods. The worst affected were Beijing and Hebei’s Zhuozhou where more than 1.2 million people were evacuated. At least 30 people have lost their lives and more than 30 remain missing.

Unprecedented rainfall triggered by Typhoon “Doksuri” lashed Hebei province in China, affecting approximately 1.2 million residents who had to be evacuated. Zhuozhou city, known for its logistical significance and housing 600 000 inhabitants, emerged as the region worst hit by the deluge.

From 08:00 LT on July 29, 2023, to 11:00 LT on August 1, 2023, an average rainfall of 355.1 mm (13.98 inches) fell on Zhuozhou, as stated by local authorities. The resultant flooding affected an area of 225.38 km2 (55 710 acres), impacting 133 913 people from 146 villages. Additionally, the water supply was severed citywide on August 1, with power outages occurring in parts of the city. As a result, by Tuesday afternoon, 125 100 people from 124 villages had been safely evacuated.

Zhuozhou had formed 28 emergency rescue teams comprising 8 755 members, which collaborated with professional rescue teams, such as the Blue Sky Rescue Team, a well-known Chinese civil relief squad. However, the rescue efforts were hampered due to severed communication lines, with many residents losing cell phone connectivity.

This disrupted communication, coupled with citywide power outages, severely restricted cell phone charging, leading to residents being cut-off from others. Several stranded citizens, according to online help forms, urgently required dry food, water, and medication.

Zhuozhou was dealt another blow as the floods inundated hundreds of book warehouses, impacting millions of books. Similarly, several logistics groups’ transshipment warehouses also fell victim to the flooding.

In a video shared with the Global Times by a local resident, Wang, the water level had engulfed cars in a nearby street. Despite the rain ceasing on Wednesday morning, the water levels were receding at a sluggish pace. The worst damage was observed in the western part of Zhuozhou. Residents were given a day’s notice to evacuate, but a second flood caused by the water breaking through the dikes left many without enough time to escape.

Meanwhile, the relentless rain did not spare the capital, Beijing, which experienced its heaviest rainfall in at least 140 years. From July 29 to the morning of August 2, the city recorded a whopping 744.8 mm(29.3 inches) of rain, surpassing the previous record from 1891 when the city received 609 mm (24 inches) of rain. These rainfall statistics represent the most substantial since the first precise machine measurements began in 1883.

The extreme rainfall wreaked havoc across the city, obliterating roads, disrupting power supplies, and even rupturing pipes carrying drinking water. Rivers surrounding the capital flooded, stranding numerous vehicles in waterlogged streets, and, in some cases, lifting cars onto pedestrian bridges.

The Beijing downpour has left a tragic toll, with the number of confirmed deaths due to torrential rains rising to 21 on Wednesday, August 2 following the recovery of a rescuer’s body. An additional 26 people remain missing. Hebei had reported 9 deaths and 6 missing as of noon on Tuesday.

As per an official from the water resources department, it may take up to a month for the floodwaters to recede entirely in Hebei, particularly in the hardest-hit city, Zhuozhou.

References:

1 1,000 rescue teams rush to flood-hit Zhuozhou – Global Times – August 2, 2023

2 Flooded rivers, trapped residents test China’s disaster response – Reuters – August 3, 2023

3 Beijing records heaviest rainfall in at least 140 years, causing severe flooding and 21 deaths – AP – August 3, 2023

Featured image: Jim Yang (stillshot)

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