China's rainy season, often called plum rain, typically begins in late spring or early summer across southern areas before typically expanding north into central China through the summer months. This year's plum rain has been particularly active, setting records and causing widespread, devastating flooding across much of the country.
Virtually all of mainland China has been affected, excluding vast far western areas such as Tibet and Xinjiang, according to Vice Minister of Emergency Management Zheng Guoguang.
In the last six months, the Yangtze, Asia's longest river, and parts of its watershed, have reported the second highest rainfall since 1961, Zheng added.
A vehicle travels through a flooded section of a road following heavy rainfall in Wuhan, Hubei province, China July 6, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS
This record-setting rainfall has caused 433 rivers across central, eastern and southern China to rise to flood stage, with 33 rivers reaching record high levels early this week, according to Reuters.
On Sunday, the Xingzi and Poyang hydrological stations located on the Poyang Lake in Jiangxi province, reached 22.53 meters (73.92 feet) and 22.74 meters (74.61 feet), respectively. This broke the old records of 22.52 meters (73.88 feet) in Xingzi and 22.61 meters (74.18 feet) in Poyang, set back in 1998, according to officials with the Chinese Embassy in the U.S.
On Saturday, July 11, the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest capacity power station, was forced to cut back discharge amounts for a fifth time to ease downstream water levels. The reservoir's levels have reached 153.2 m (502.6 feet), 6.7 m (21.98 feet) higher than the warning level, according to Reuters.
In Hubei, the flood response was raised to Level II, the second highest on a four-level scale, after a record-breaking 426 mm (16.8 inches) of rain fell on Sunday, July 5, the official China Daily reported.
In Hubei's capital of Wuhan, the original epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak that was locked down for months, residents were told to stay indoors once again, but this time due to severe flooding. Floodwaters rushed over the banks of the Yangtze River, which runs alongside the city, Reuters reported.
Footage captured on July 14 showed floodwaters from the river spilling onto walkways in a local park in Wuhan. Several city parks and walkways were closed last weekend in the city, according to Storyful News Agency.
By Friday, July 17, flood response levels were increased to Level I, the highest on the scale, for rising rivers across Hubei as well as Jiangxi. In Wuhan, red alerts were declared as rivers and lakes approached their guaranteed safety levels.
The ongoing flooding in the initial epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak and surrounding areas is impacting efforts to control the pandemic, including delaying shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE).
"It's just creating another major roadblock here in terms of PPE getting into the United States - it is the worst of times for it to happen but that's what we're dealing with right now," Michael Einhorn, president of Dealmed, a U.S. medical supply distributor, which sources disposable lab coats and other products from Wuhan and nearby regions, told Reuters reporters.
"We cannot get product out for over a week, which is a very long time in our business," he said, adding that the delays could last up to three weeks.
"Xiantao, just west of Wuhan, is China's biggest manufacturer of nonwoven fabrics used in PPE production. A third of China's total exports of nonwoven fabric products are from the city," reported Reuters.
Aerial view of housed flooded by rising water near Yongxiu Sanjiao Lianyu Dam in Jiujiang City, east China's Jiangxi province, on July 14, 2020.
Flooded rivers and heavy rainfall have impacted over 38 million people across 27 provinces across China since June and more than 2 million people have been evacuated.
At least 141 people are dead or missing due to the flooding.
Numerous rescues have taken place across the country as quickly rising waters and sudden landslides have surprised residents since the first rounds of flooding downpours arrived in June.
As of Friday, at least six more people were killed in three separate landslides in the Kaizhou District of Chongqing.
According to Reuters, the devastating flooding has caused economic losses at around 60 billion yuan ($8.57 billion), adding to the economic impact from shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The flooding of key tourist attractions across southern China is expected to add to the financial stress in the region already in place thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The Associated Press
Emergency workers have been sandbagging rivers to reinforce their banks and digging channels to redirect some of the water, but officials in the water ministry are preparing for more "grim" weather in the form of heavy rainfall.
AccuWeather forecasters say a storm system that moved into central China the end of the week will continue to bring widespread, heavy rainfall from the mega city of Chongqing in central China to the Jiangsu province through Sunday.
Chongqing, Wuhan and Shanghai are just a few cities that can receive rainfall totals of 100-200 mm (4-8 inches), but any amount of rain will further exacerbate flooding across the region and heighten the risk for landslides as well.
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