China floods threaten downstream cities as tens of thousands evacuated

Typhoon Doksuri is wreaking havoc as it turns streets into rushing rivers and displaces thousands across east Asia.

A man makes his way through a flooded road after the rains and floods brought by remnants of Typhoon Doksuri
A man makes his way through a flooded road after the rains and floods brought by remnants of Typhoon Doksuri, in Zhuozhou, Hebei province, on Thursday [Tingshu Wang/Reuters]

Heavy rain and high water levels on rivers in northeastern China have been threatening cities downstream, prompting the evacuation of tens of thousands of people as storms continue to batter parts of east Asia.

After wreaking havoc in the Philippines and Taiwan, the remnants of Typhoon Doksuri passed through China’s capital, Beijing, on Monday, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

On Friday, Hebei province surrounding Beijing on three sides issued alerts for several of its cities.

Some 13 rivers exceeded warning levels in the Haihe River Basin, which includes Beijing, Tianjin and Shijiazhuang, the Xinhua news agency said, quoting the Ministry of Water Resources.

About 42,000 people were evacuated from areas of Shanxi province to Hebei’s west, it reported, quoting emergency officials.

The grain-producing province of Heilongjiang to the north was evacuating entire villages in anticipation of life-threatening deluges. The storms and floods triggered power cuts in Shangzhi city, where supermarkets were running low on provisions, according to media reports.

Heilongjiang was forecast on Friday to experience strong convective weather, including short-term heavy precipitation, thunderstorms and strong winds, as well as localised torrential downpours in northern Qiqihar.

People stand on a front loader travelling through floodwaters after the rains and floods brought by remnants of Typhoon Doksur
In Zhuozhou, some 125,000 people from high-risk areas were moved to shelters [Tingshu Wang/Reuters]

The province also flagged “very high” risks of secondary disasters such as mountain torrents, urban and rural waterlogging, and farmland waterlogging.

In Zhuozhou, southwest of Beijing, some 125,000 people from high-risk areas were moved to shelters, Xinhua said.

Local authorities in Tianjin, a port east of Beijing, said 35,000 people were evacuated from near the swollen Yongding River.

Chinese President Xi Jinping issued an order for local governments to go “all out” to rescue those trapped and minimise loss of life and property damage.

At least 20 people have been reported killed in Beijing’s outer suburbs and another 27 were missing following the weekend storms that quickly overwhelmed drainage systems.

Power was knocked out in areas, public transport and summer classes were suspended and citizens of the metropolis of more than 20 million were told to stay home.

As much as 500mm (almost 20 inches) of rain has fallen in some places since Saturday, according to the Hebei province weather agency. Some areas reported as much as 90mm (3.5 inches) of rainfall per hour.

Other parts of the country are struggling with drought, putting further pressure on food supplies for the nation’s 1.4 billion people already struggling with the disruption in grain shipments resulting from Russia’s war against Ukraine.

In early July, at least 15 people were killed by floods in the southwestern region of Chongqing, and about 5,590 people in the far northwestern province of Liaoning had to be evacuated. In the central province of Hubei, rainstorms trapped residents in their vehicles and homes.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies