Hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes in southern China, according to state media, amid floods and landslides triggered by the heaviest rainfall the region has seen in decades.
With rainstorms continuing to lash southern and eastern regions including Guangdong, Guangxi and Jiangxi on Tuesday, state media said some 85 rivers nationwide have “experienced floods above the warning level”.
In the low-lying Pearl River basin, which encompasses Guangdong and Guangxi, the downpours have dangerously swelled some 54 waterways, threatening manufacturing, shipping and logistics operations at a time when supply chains are already stressed because of China’s strict COVID-19 controls.
State media photos showed people huddled on camp beds in schools converted into temporary shelters in Guangdong’s Shaoguan city, and hundreds of tents erected on a sports ground.
Authorities in Guangdong said on Monday that more than 200,000 people have been evacuated over the course of the disaster, and that the damage so far is estimated at 1.7 billion yuan ($254m).
The evacuees were among almost 480,000 people affected by the rains and floods, according to the officials.
Shaoguan also issued a red flood alert – the most serious – on Tuesday morning, after multiple rural counties and the major city of Foshan upgraded their flood warnings in recent days.
In neighbouring Guangxi region, muddy water was seen flooding urban areas and emergency rescuers were seen evacuating villagers on rubber dinghies, according to state media images.
About 145,000 people have been evacuated from areas in Guangxi, while 2,700 houses have collapsed.
State broadcaster CCTV said more than 1,000 villagers were trapped in a flooded village in Guilin of Guangxi.
The Global Times tabloid said on Monday that torrential rain was forecast to continue over the next three days and would continue to raise water levels in the Pearl River basin. “It’s likely to cause more floods and mountain torrents,” the Communist Party-owned newspaper said, citing the Ministry of Water Resources.
In eastern Jiangxi Province, where a red alert for flooding has been issued, nearly 500,000 people have been affected and 433,000 hectares (1,070,000 acres) of crop land damaged, according to local authorities.
And in neighbouring Fujian, more than 220,000 people have been evacuated since the beginning of this month because of floods, China’s official Xinhua news agency said on Monday.
China’s National Meteorological Center said the average rainfall in Guangdong, Fujian and Guangxi provinces between early May and the middle of June reached 621 millimetres (24 inches), the highest since 1961.
Earlier this month, at least 21 people died after flooding induced by torrential rain in the central Chinese province of Hubei.
Catastrophic flooding in central China’s Henan province last summer killed 398 people and caused economic losses of more than $10bn.