SHANGHAI • Torrential rain is set to hit China's eastern coastal regions this week after overwhelming large parts of the south-west, inundating villages and tourist spots and displacing more than 700,000 people, state weather forecasters said yesterday.
Nearly 14 million people in 26 provinces had been hit by storms and floods by last Friday, with 744,000 evacuated, the China Daily reported, citing the Ministry of Emergency Management.
The ministry said 78 people have been confirmed dead or missing, with direct economic losses at 27.8 billion yuan (S$5.5 billion).
Much of the damage has hit south-western regions such as Guangxi and Sichuan, and the municipality of Chongqing on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River last week experienced its worst floods since 1940.
But central and eastern regions are set to bear the brunt this week, with some facing 30mm to 50mm of rain per hour by tomorrow, said the state meteorological bureau.
Regions along the banks of the Yangtze and its tributaries are traditionally vulnerable to flooding in China's summer, with the impact of heavy rainfall now worsened by deforestation, dwindling flood plains and the diversion of natural river systems for hydropower and irrigation.
Rainfall has also been heavier than usual, with water volumes in 148 rivers already reaching emergency levels by the middle of this month.
The local authorities are under instruction to pay close attention to potential dam and reservoir collapses.
Some Yangtze tributaries have already experienced their worst floods ever, including the Xiaojinchuan in Sichuan province.
The Ministry of Water Resources warned last week that other smaller rivers could be "stricken by major floods" and lakes are also under close scrutiny.
The authorities have promised to minimise flood damage in Wuhan, which lies on the Yangtze and was hit by China's last major floods in 1998, which killed more than 3,000 people and left 14 million homeless.