Red Cross provides relief as heavy rains cause floods and landslides in Southern China

By Hler Gudjonsson, IFRC

Heavy rains and hailstorms have triggered severe floods and landslides in parts of Southern China, affecting over 600,000 people and displacing over 240,000 people. According to government estimates published at the beginning of July, 128 people were killed while another 42 were reported missing. On 9 July, a landslide caused by torrential rains in Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China took the lives of another 36 people.

Since the onset of the flooding, highly-trained and well-equipped emergency relief teams from the Red Cross Society of China have been distributing relief items including family kits, clothes, tents, food and cash assistance to those affected. They have also set up tents and sanitary facilities in safe locations.

“Hubei has suffered extremely heavy rains and floods,” said Chen Zhu, President of the Red Cross Society of China during his visit to resettlement sites in Wuhan City, Hubei Province. The area has been particularly hard-hit by torrential rains this year. President Chen Zhu emphasized the importance of the National Society in responding to emergency situations related to the floods in southern China, pointing out the crucial role of Red Cross volunteers and staff in relief operations.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs reported that more than 23 million people had been affected by this year’s rains. More than 1.3 million people were evacuated and almost 600,000 people received emergency relief. 41,000 houses are reported to have collapsed and more than 248,000 houses have been damaged. More than 19 million hectares of agricultural land has been damaged, and the direct economic loss is estimated at more than 38 billion RMB (5.6 billion USD).

China suffers from increased climate-related disasters such as drought and floods, which can be partly traced to the rise in global temperatures and other climate change related phenomena. Precipitation levels at the start of this rainy season have been much higher than in a normal year, kindling fears that continued downpour could trigger a major disaster that would require an extensive emergency response.

Damaged and muddy roads, particularly in the mountainous areas have hampered Red Cross relief efforts, increasing the challenge of bringing aid to affected households especially where the population is dispersed in many small villages.

Super typhoon Nepartak passed over Taiwan on 8 July, causing considerable damage in areas already suffering from the aftereffects of the flooding. The typhoon struck Fujian province on 9 July, killing three people, but had lost much of its strength before it came ashore. According to government figures, around 59,000 people were evacuated to safer areas before the typhoon made landfall.