China floods: four killed in Guangdong sparking concerns over extreme weather defences

Heavy rainstorms that swept across southern China over the weekend killed at least four people as floods swamped cities in the densely populated Pearl River Delta, state media reported.

A search was under way for 10 others missing after record-breaking rains sparked concerns about the region’s defences against bigger deluges induced by extreme weather events.

By Monday, about 110,000 people had been evacuated across the province, while 25,800 people were in emergency shelters, according to Xinhua.

In Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, the government said the city had logged a cumulative rainfall of 60.9cm in April, the highest monthly rainfall since record-keeping began in 1959.

The official Xinhua news agency said three people died in Zhaoqing city while one rescuer died in Shaoguan city. It didn’t provide details about when or how they died. The two cities in Guangdong province are among the worst hit areas of sustained torrential rains that began late last week.

Rescuers deliver food by raft to people affected by the heavy rainfall in Lianjiangkou town, south China’s Guangdong province. Photograph: Huang Guobao/AP

Footage on state broadcaster CCTV showed rescuers in rubber boats evacuating residents from inundated shopping streets and residential areas.

Floods also battered neighbouring Jiangxi province where local media reported 459 people had been evacuated, while rains and floods have affected 1,500 hectares of crops and caused financial losses of more than 41 million yuan ($5.7m).

Guangdong, once dubbed the “factory floor of the world”, is prone to summer floods. Its defences against disruptive floods were severely tested in June 2022 when the province was pounded by the heaviest downpours in six decades. Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated.

Since Thursday, Guangdong has been battered by unusually heavy, sustained and widespread rainfall, with powerful storms ushering in an earlier-than-normal start to the province’s annual flooding season in May and June.

Over the weekend, waterways in the province overflowed, including in some villages where flood waters reached the second storey of houses after washing out paddy and potato fields.

Roads submerged in flood waters after heavy rainfall in Qingyuan. Photograph: Tingshu Wang/Reuters

In Qingyuan, a relatively small city of 4 million, rescuers tackled neck-high waters to extract residents including an elderly lady trapped in waist-deep water in an apartment building.

Others remained on the upper floors of their houses, waiting for the waters to recede as friends delivered food by boat.

Weather events in China have become more intense and unpredictable because of global warming, scientists say, with record-breaking rainfall and drought assailing the world’s second-largest economy, often at the same time.

In Qingyuan residents counted their losses, with one farmer telling Reuters that their rice fields had been “fully flooded”.

“I won’t be making any money this year, I will be making losses,” Huang Jingrong said, estimating his losses at about 100,000 yuan ($13,800).

“What can we do? We won’t get reimbursed for our losses.”

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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