Chinese cities brace for floods as heat scorches inland regions
BEIJING -Beijing and other cities braced for severe flooding on Friday as summer storms rolled across many parts of China, while inland regions baked in intense heat, threatening to shrink the country’s biggest freshwater lake.
Wild weather swings have gripped China since April, causing deaths, damaging infrastructure and wilting crops as well as raising fears of its ability to cope with climate change.
Historically, China enters its peak rainy season in late July, but extreme weather has made storms more intense and unpredictable, exposing heavily built-up megacities with poor or insufficient drainage to potentially deadly floods.
In Beijing, authorities have deployed this week over 2,600 people to drain dozens of pumping stations in advance and clear thousands of water drainage outlets along roads. Several bus routes plying the suburbs and mountainous areas were halted.
Authorities in the neighboring city of Tianjin also ramped up flood control efforts in the Hai basin, a major northern drainage system. By contrast, scant rainfall in Jiangxi province has resulted in Poyang Lake, the country’s largest body of fresh water, ebbing to its lowest level for this time of the year since records began in 1951.
Poyang Lake, known as the kidneys of China due to the role it plays in regulating the flow of the Yangtze river, normally swells in summer due to rain and retreats in winter. Last year, it also unexpectedly shrank due to drought.
Temperatures of 35 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) and above continued to menace other parts of China.
Northwestern Xinjiang, where temperatures hit a record high 52.2C on Sunday, remained blanketed in worse-than-usual heat while in neighboring Gansu province, some areas suffered intense heat while others warned of floods and landslides.
Chinese officials have warned repeatedly that China is vulnerable to the impact of climate change due to its large population and unevenly distributed water supplies.
Videos shared on social media this week showed vehicles slowing to a crawl in the megacity of Chongqing in the southwest as traffic police gave directions boot-deep in water. In northern Shanxi province, vehicles laid half submerged, with some piled on top of each other.
To the east in Jiangsu province, a waterfall tumbled into a high-speed railway station in rain-drenched Wuxi city, according to social media clips.
As many as 150 cities get waterlogged each summer, despite efforts to improve drainage.
In July 2021, extreme rain in the central Henan city of Zhengzhou killed nearly 400 people, including 14 who drowned in a submerged subway line. More rain had fallen over three days than what the city gets in a year.
Heavy rainfall of up to 130mm (5.12 inches) is expected in parts of Hebei, Beijing and Tianjin until Saturday morning, the national weather bureau warned.
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