China facing worst floods since 1998

A woman emptying water out of her boot in Wuhan, which received in a week almost as much rain as London gets in a year.
A woman emptying water out of her boot in Wuhan, which received in a week almost as much rain as London gets in a year.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Torrential rainfall has affected 32 million in 26 provinces, with death toll hitting 180 and 1.4 million being evacuated

As the flood waters inundated his home town of Wuhu in central Anhui province, fish farmer Chen Haoming saw his livelihood washed away in front of his eyes.

The 100,000 yuan (S$20,000) he had invested in his two ponds of fish is all gone, swept away in the past week by the worst floods to hit China in almost two decades.

"I've never seen such serious flooding here before," Mr Chen, 44, told The Straits Times by phone. "We're all farmers here, rearing fish, ducks and other animals. Now this is all gone. We have nothing."

When the flooding first began in Wuhu, three statues at the town's riverside park were photographed partially covered by water. But soon after, pictures showed the statues completely underwater.

China is facing its worst floods since 1998, with torrential rainfall in the past week affecting 32 million people in 26 provinces. More than 180 people have died and 45 are missing, while 1.4 million people have been forced to evacuate.

Days of heavy rain have caused waters in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River to swell above warning levels.

Among the worst-affected cities is Wuhan, which lies along the Yangtze and is home to about 10 million people. The capital of central Hubei province received 570mm of rain in a week - almost as much rain as London receives in a year.

The auto industry hub was brought to a near standstill, as waters disrupted traffic on more than 200 roads and flooded subway stations and underpasses.

Singaporean undergraduate Saishreyas Sundarajoo, 24, said umbrellas were useless in Wuhan because "the wind was blowing the rain in all directions".

He recalled having to try five different routes to go home via an Uber taxi on Tuesday, the day of the heaviest rain. "There are three roads that I can go home by, but they all go through some sort of tunnel, and they were completely flooded," he told The Straits Times.

A trip that normally takes 10 minutes wound up lasting one hour. "Eventually, we had to make an illegal turn into a road that was only one-way to get home," he said. "I guess the rules were suspended that day due to the floods."

The floods have led to an outpouring of praise for rescue workers among the Chinese public.

One picture that went viral on social media is that of a rescue worker, reportedly named Mr Li Jinlong, asleep with a half-eaten packet of lunch in his hands, because he had not slept for four nights.

Wuhan resident and entrepreneur Zhang Changlong, who is in his 40s, said the floods were a reminder to the local government to guard better against floods.

He told The Straits Times that he had been unable to go to his office because the waters reached up to the waist on the roads.

"Over the years, you see a lot of construction in Wuhan, but not much of it seems to be invested in preventing flooding," he said.

•Additional reporting by Carol Feng.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2016, with the headline 'China facing worst floods since 1998'. Print Edition | Subscribe