Covid-19, Floods and Bank Runs: China Braces As Heavy Rainfall Stresses Water Management Infrastructure

A torrential downpour which has lasted over a month is testing China’s vast river flood control infrastructure, and threatening residents of Hubei Province, whose capital is Wuhan.

China’s flood defence network put to the test as it braces for more storms

Almost 20 million people living along the Yangtze River have been affected since late May, with at least 121 killed or missing

Engineer says if severe flooding, torrential rain persist it’s unclear how effective the dams will be

Shanghai Floods 2007
Shanghai Floods 2007. lauraelizabeth / CC BY

Echo Xie

China’s huge flood defence network in the south of the country is being put to the test by persistent heavy rainfall across the Yangtze River region.

Torrential rain that began in late May has so far affected almost 20 million people in provinces along the river, with at least 121 killed or missing in severe floods, state media reported.

Meteorological bureaus have warned heavy downpours will continue to affect large areas of the country – from Chongqing in the southwest to Shanghai on the east coast – in the coming five days. Wuhan, the initial epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, was battered by heavy rainfall and thunderstorms over the weekend and on Monday, prompting authorities to raise the emergency flood response to the second highest level of a four-tier warning system, state news agency Xinhua reported.

Fan Xiao, chief engineer at the Sichuan Geology and Mineral Bureau in Chengdu, said the effectiveness of the flood defence network depended on individual dams and the severity of the rainfall.

“If there is severe flooding with persistent torrential rain, like what happened in 1998, it would be difficult to say how effective the dams will be,” he said, referring to devastating floods that killed more than 2,000 people. “The dams have operated well but we haven’t had any real tests so far.”

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The forced release of water from the nation’s dams is having a severe impact in some regions.

China Flooding: Heaviest Rains in Decades Continues, 20 Million People Affected

By Victoria Sinla
Jul 08, 2020 09:00 AM EDT

The Ministry of Water Resources elevated its emergency response for flood control from Level Four to Level 3 on July 4, Monday as what is now dubbed as the heaviest rains in decades continues. Level One is considered the highest level of response.

An estimated 20 million people are now affected by the heavy rains and severe flooding, and direct economic losses now amount to at least £4.7bn.

Several areas of Hubei, where the capital city of Wuhan is located is heavily flooded. Helen Hai, a resident of Changyang county in Wuhan, Hubei said that because of the heavy and fast downpour, using windshield wipers is futile. Adding to her difficulty is driving past landslides and rocks falling from the mountainside.

According to Chinese hydrologist Wang Weiluo, the danger of the dams in rivers across southern and southwestern China where flooding is worst is being concealed by the Chinese officials. He said officials never disclose how a disaster is made and how it happens.

“Most people think floods are caused by extreme weather but it is mainly caused by the discharge of reservoirs and the result of flood control works,” he said.

Hai said that the government downplaying the crisis does not come as a surprise for her. She said it has happened before, not just with this flooding crisis. She admits it is hard to judge the government data but she has come to expect that the real situation is much worst.

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Some villagers are being evacuated.

China Focus: Relocation protects public from floods 

Source: Xinhua| 2020-07-09 14:11:02|Editor: huaxia

HEFEI/CHANGSHA/WUHAN, July 9 (Xinhua) — Suffering from rain-triggered mountain torrents twice in 24 hours, residents in Biyun Village in east China’s Anhui Province said they had never experienced such downpours before.

“It’s getting bigger every time, and parts of the village were inundated by knee-deep floodwater,” said 54-year-old Xia Minghua, Party secretary of Biyun, in the city of Xuancheng.

The village was battered respectively by two torrential floods at 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Monday and a total of five bouts of heavy rains in Xuancheng since it entered the flood season this year had forced the evacuation of 22,107 people as of Tuesday.

“Before the flash floods, local authorities had arranged for the relocation of a dozen villagers living in lowlands, riverbanks and other places vulnerable to floods,” said Fang Guanghu, a resident of Biyun.

“We are now temporarily living in a conference room in our village, provided with meals, television, mosquito-repellent incense and quilts, all free of charge,” Fang added.

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To add to China’s other woes, at least one Chinese province has been suffering bank runs. Hebei (not Hubei) Province has implemented customer transaction limits, though it is unclear whether or how the timing of the new rule is related to other problems.

China province orders new checks on big cash transactions after bank runs

Karen Yeung
South China Morning Post
July 5, 2020

China has launched a pilot programme in the northern province of Hebei requiring the public to apply for approval if they plan to make large cash deposits or withdrawals at commercial banks.

The regulation comes after a series of bank runs in the past year at debt-laden small lenders and as an unprecedented pandemic-related economic contraction starts to take a toll.

From July 1, residents in the province will need to provide information about the source of deposits or the purpose of withdrawals for transactions over 100,000 yuan (US$14,162) for individuals, and 500,000 yuan for corporations, the state-backed China Securities Journal reported last week.

Applicants will have to give one day’s notice to the bank to make a withdrawal of this size or larger, and gain the branch’s approval of the registration information, the report said.

The pilot programme will be expanded to Zhejiang province in the east and the city of Shenzhen in Guangdong province from October 1, affecting individual account transactions of more than 300,000 yuan and 200,000 yuan, respectively.

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Not a good year for China.

Update (EW): In 2014 China’s Anti-corruption watchdog heavily criticised the state firm which constructed the Three Gorges Dam, which straddles the Yangtse River. The Three Gorges Dam, one of the largest dams in the world, is bearing the brunt of the extreme rainfall China is currently experiencing. Around 220 million people live downriver of the Three Gorges Dam in the Yangtse River Delta.



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