As China slowly recuperates from the coronavirus pandemic, torrential rains are threatening recovery efforts as flooding inundates much of the nation.

Since June, summer rains have triggered the worst flooding seen in decades, devastating 28,000 homes and 8.72 million acres of farmland. Roughly 37 million people have been impacted by the floods – more than the entire population of Canada – with no end in sight as more heavy rains are expected in coming days.

According to the Ministry of Emergency Management, 141 people have been declared either dead or missing. While China isn’t a stranger to summer floods, this year’s seasonal rains – which arrived earlier than usual – have proven to be particularly destructive with 27 out of 31 provincial regions impacted.

Shocking still, 443 rivers have reached flooding levels, 33 of which had reached the highest level ever recorded. The Yangtze river, the longest river in Asia, saw average precipitation also reach a record high since 1961.

“Compared with before, this year’s rainfall was more intense and repeatedly poured down on the same region, which brought significant pressure on flood control,” said Chen Tao, the chief weather forecaster at the National Meteorological Center.

The economic losses sustained from weeks of flooding has surged to 82.23 billion yuan ($11.75 billion).

Repeating history?

Many are worried that the floods will mirror the 1998 floods which claimed the lives of over 3,000 people and destroyed 15 million homes. However, authorities have dismissed concerns, stating that the Three Gorges Dam – one of the world’s largest power stations established in 2003 – has minimised economic losses and reduced deaths.

“One of the major justifications for the Three Gorges Dam was flood control, but less than 20 years after its completion we have the highest floodwater in recorded history,” said David Shankman, a geographer at the University of Alabama and an expert on Chinese floods. “The fact is that it cannot prevent these severe events.”

It is no secret that the climate crisis is exacerbating these weather events, and as the Earth grows warmer, these disasters will not only become worse but will occur frequently.

Photo Credit: AP

Aisha Mohamed