China braces for heavy rains from Typhoon Higos while Yangtze River swell triggers flood alert

The Yangtze River and several of its tributaries have risen to dangerous levels after days of heavy rain. PHOTO: AFP

HAIKOU/SHANGHAI (XINHUA, REUTERS) - Typhoon Higos is expected to bring torrential downpours to regions in southern China in the following days, even as the rain-swollen Yangtze River triggers an unprecedented flood alert.

A tropical depression in the north-east of the South China Sea intensified into a typhoon at around 8am on Tuesday (Aug 18), according to the meteorological department of Hainan Province.

The typhoon will land in coastal areas on Wednesday, including locations in the western part of Guangdong and those in the north-eastern part of Hainan.

Provinces of Hainan, Guangdong, Yunnan and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region will have torrential rain starting from Wednesday, the meteorological department said.

The emergency management department of Hainan has issued a typhoon alert, warning that fishing boats and other vessels should return to harbours.

Meteorologists also alerted the affected areas to take preventive measures and guard against secondary disasters. Tourists have been advised not to go out when heavy rain and gales hit the areas.

Meanwhile, China's biggest river, the Yangtze, and several of its tributaries have risen to dangerous levels after days of heavy rain, forcing tens of thousands of people from their homes and triggering an unprecedented emergency response alert.

China has seen unusually high levels of rain this flood season, with the south-west and central regions in the Yangtze River basin bearing the brunt of flooding.

The Ministry of Water Resources said on Monday that 38 tributaries on the upper reaches of the Yangtze were now higher than their warning levels, 19 dangerously so.

The south-western province of Sichuan, which includes a major upstream section of the Yangtze, has raised its flood emergency response to its highest level, the first time it has ever done so, with its rivers overflowing and villages and farmland inundated.

The Qingyi river, an upper Yangtze tributary, had seen its worst flooding in a century, Sichuan's flood control authority said, with the city of Ya'an forced to evacuate more than 36,000 people as the river burst its banks on Monday.

The Yangtze and Huai river basins have seen the highest level of rainfall since records began in 1961, officials have said. As many as 634 rivers throughout the country have exceeded their official flood warning levels.

By last week, 63 million people had been affected by floods, 12.7 per cent higher than the average over the past five years, said Mr Zhou Xuewen, vice-minister at the Ministry of Emergency Management.

The cost of direct economic damage reached 179 billion yuan (S$35 billion), 15.5 per cent higher than the five-year average, he added.

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