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Thursday, July 21, 2016, 10:19

Brace for deluge, Xi tells nation

By Zheng Jinran

President calls for full preparations as heavy rain heightens risk of disaster from north to south

Brace for deluge, Xi tells nation
Residents in Beijing walk on a flooded street as heavy rainfall hit the city on Wednesday. (Su Dong / For China Daily)

From the south to the north, with record-breaking downpours, flooding, landslides and loss of lives, China is coping with a seemingly endless string of extreme weather conditions and disasters this summer. And it is bracing for more.

President Xi Jinping has called for the nation to be fully prepared for the huge floods that are expected along some of the country's major rivers.

The president's call was made on Wednesday as China's vast and drought-prone northern regions were hit by the strongest downpours this year, triggering floods and landslides that killed 13 people and left 62 missing.

Livelihoods of 1.73 million people in 131 counties of six provinces were affected, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

President Xi also warned local officials that they would not be treated leniently if they failed to perform their duty and live up to the central government's expectations in the forthcoming disaster prevention and control efforts.

Protection of life must be the priority, the president said.

Beginning on Tuesday, downpours in Shanxi, Hebei and Hubei provinces hit a record high for precipitation before torrential rains spread to much of northern China on Wednesday and brought the most precipitation this year, said Ma Xuekuan, chief forecaster of the Central Meteorological Observatory.

Brace for deluge, Xi tells nation

Many northern cities raised their flood alert to the highest level on Wednesday, including Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province.

In the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area, the strong downpours are expected to continue in the coming days, the meteorological observatory said, warning of the likelihood of more geological disasters.

Before striking northern China, torrential rains hit many provinces in southern and eastern regions of the country, especially in June, causing floods and landslides and heavy casualties.

In the first six months of the year, "China has seen 172 deaths, 99 injuries and another 19 people missing from 2,232 geological disasters nationwide, with the casualties increasing by 75 percent year-on-year," said Wang Guanghua, vice-minister of land and resources.

The increase in casualties was blamed on the heavy rainfall since the start of the flooding season on March 21. Precipitation saw a year-on-year increase of 21 percent over the average rainfall in past years, and this worsened geological disasters like landslides and mudslides, the ministry said in a statement.

Geological disasters like landslides usually peak from July to September, thus leaving the country facing higher risks than usual, especially in southern mountainous areas.

"The northern regions, which previously did not have large rainfall and therefore the mountains' soil is loose, will face high risk of geological disasters, requiring full preparation from governments," said Wang, the vice-minister.

The numbers of deaths and injuries in southern regions are the highest since 2011, doubling the average numbers of recent years.

The report from the ministry and the China National Commission for Disaster Reduction said the flooding, hailstorms and geological disasters have been the major disasters in the first six months, affecting 68.8 million people and causing 505 deaths and 89 billion yuan (US$13.3 billion) in direct economic losses.

zhengjinran@chinadaily.com.cn

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