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Floods in China: the toll is growing

China’s Henan Province is currently experiencing terrible flooding. The human toll continues to climb and now reaches 25 dead.

For the past few days, China’s Henan province has been plagued by torrential rains, with the equivalent of three years of rain in just three days. A dozen cities including Zhengzhou, the regional capital, is completely inundated; the human toll is substantial, and now stands at at least 25 deaths.

In Zhengzhou, many train and bus lines have been cut, and several highways closed pending the recession. A situation which forced many citizens to fall back on the metro, which generated dramatic situations. Hundreds of people were trapped in the vast underground network; fortunately, around 500 of them were able to be extracted from the tunnels before it was too late. 12 people will not have had this chance.

A logistical disaster

In total, around 100,000 people were evacuated, including hundreds in search of temporary shelter. The few institutions with premises spared by the disaster made them available to house the refugees. The city’s largest hospital was completely without power and had to transfer around 600 critically ill patients.

Local industry is also affected. Nissan, for example, had to shut down its local plant. But above all, the vast network of dams upstream of the city begins to exceed all alert levels, and becomes a source of growing concern for local authorities; A 20-meter breach would have appeared in the Yihetan dam, which now threatens to give way.

More than 5,700 soldiers were dispatched to assist the rescue services. But real-time response is not enough: for Johnny Chan, professor of atmospheric sciences in Hong Kong, it is also important for the government to “develop strategies to adapt to these changes”.

The area is known for its terrible floods

It is unfortunately very complicated in this particularly exposed area. Indeed, Zhengzhou sits on the banks of the Yellow River, the second longest river in China. This stream has largely shaped the history of China; locally, the territory is completely organized around it. The population depends in particular on its fertile land for agriculture, and its network of dams for its energy.

But as providential as it is, the river is also known for its extremely violent floods. It is he who is responsible for some of the worst floods in history. In 1887, an apocalyptic flood left 130,000 m² under water, killed more than 9,000 people and left two million inhabitants homeless.

A multi-faceted problem

The area therefore has a natural tendency to disastrous floods; But this does not explain everything; the first culprit is typhoon In-fa. This tends to push large amounts of water-saturated air into the interior of the continent. By colliding with the relief, these air masses will stop and promote precipitation.

According to local scientists, global warming is starting to accentuate these floods significantly. And that’s only the beginning. “Extreme weather events like this will become more and more frequent”, Explains Johnny Chan. Many also pointed to the network of 20 dams located on the Yellow River; by building them, the engineers would have cut natural drainage routes, which would have accentuated the phenomenon.

These are all points that the local authorities will have to take into account once the water has gone back down. But for now, it is above all a question of dealing with the most urgent; meteorologists are pessimistic and expect more rain in the days to come.

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