Severe floods in China leave at least 106 dead or missing

China's paramilitary police officers search for people who were missing in Sichuan, China, on June 29, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (NYTIMES) - Weeks of abnormally intense rains have swept away buildings and ruined homes across southern China, leaving at least 106 people dead or missing and affecting 15 million residents in the worst flooding that parts of the region have seen in decades.

Heavy rains this time of year often swell China's rivers and cause its reservoirs to overflow.

This year, however, the battle against the coronavirus pandemic has strained flood preparations, according to People's Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper.

With the bad weather showing no sign of letting up after more than 31 consecutive days of alerts about torrential rain from the government weather agency, experts have warned of potential landslides and bursts at reservoirs and dams.

In China, "most small reservoirs were built in the 1960s and '70s" and did not follow high construction standards, said Mr Brandon Meng, a hydraulic engineer in the southern city of Shenzhen.

"Once there is extreme weather, it's very easy for them to be in danger."

One of the hardest-hit provinces so far has been Hubei, whose capital, Wuhan, saw the first emergence of the coronavirus.

Waist-deep muddy water inundated streets and stranded people in their cars late last month in Yichang, a city in Hubei down the Yangtze River from the Three Gorges Dam, one of the world's largest.

In Yangshuo, a tourist town known for its stunning mountain vistas, an official told the news magazine Southern Weekly that the area had experienced a once-in-two-centuries burst of heavy rain on June 7.

More than 1,000 hotels and guesthouses and 5,000 shops were damaged, the authorities told Southern Weekly.

In the central metropolis of Chongqing, city authorities said last month that the flooding along the local section of the Qijiang River, upstream from the Yangtze, had been the worst since monitoring began in 1940.

About 40,000 residents were evacuated, according to official news outlets.

China's National Meteorological Centre warned on Friday (July 3) that the country's south-west was due for another round of downpours beginning on Saturday.

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