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‘Once in a century’ flood warning issued for Guangdong as Bei River surges to record levels, China

Once in a century' flood warning issued for Guangdong as rivers surge to record levels, China

The southern Chinese province of Guangdong faces severe flooding risks with the Bei River’s water levels predicted to peak at 37.3 m (122 feet) early on April 22, 2024. This event, deemed a ‘once-in-a-century’ occurrence, comes after the region experienced record-breaking rainfall, affecting millions of people.

Residents of Guangdong province are bracing for potentially catastrophic flooding as the Bei River, a key tributary of the Pearl River, is expected to swell to 37.3 m (122 feet) by 01:00 LT on April 22, 2024 (17:00 UTC on April 21).

This level is significantly above the flood warning threshold by approximately 5.8 m (19 feet). Over the weekend, water levels at 20 monitoring stations along the river had already surpassed safety limits.

This escalation follows a series of intense rainstorms that began on April 19, setting new rainfall records for the month. The cities of Qingyuan, Shaoguan, Huizhou, and Guangzhou are among the worst affected.

The National Meteorological Centre has reported that since the beginning of April, the affected regions have received between 200 mm (7.9 inches) and 350 mm (13.8 inches) of rainfall. Shaoguan alone has seen a total of 584.4 mm (23 inches) of rain, surpassing the previous record of 417 mm (16.4 inches) set last year.

This deluge has led to the activation of numerous hail and thunderstorm warnings across the province, including orange alerts—the second-highest level of concern in China’s rainstorm warning system—for several areas.

In the provincial capital Guangzhou (population 18 million), reservoirs have reached flood limits, city officials said on Sunday, adding that 2 609 hydrological stations had daily rainfall greater than 50 mm (1.97 inches), accounting for about 59% of all observation stations. At 08:00 LT today, 27 hydrological stations in Guangdong were on alert.

The forecast suggests no respite in the coming days, with 150 – 300 mm (5.9 – 11.8 inches) of additional rainfall expected across central and northern Guangdong, northeastern Guangxi, and southern Jiangxi. Some locales might even exceed 400 mm (15.7 inches) of rain.

In response, the provincial disaster prevention department is intensifying efforts to mitigate the impact, focusing on monitoring and early warnings, flood control dispatch, and emergency rescue operations.

To date, more than 20 000 people have been evacuated from Qingyuan and Shaoguan, although no casualties have been reported yet.

The incessant rain has caused significant disruptions, including waterlogging and landslides, leading to the suspension of train services and the closure of several highways over the weekend. Flight delays were also reported at Baiyun International Airport in Guangzhou.

This marks the second major flood event in Guangdong this month alone, following an early start to the flood season that saw over 800 people evacuated two weeks prior.


1 China issues ‘once in a century’ flood warning for Guangdong’s Bei River zone – SCMP – April 21, 2024

2 Massive river flooding expected in China’s Guangdong, threatening millions – Reuters – April 21, 2024


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