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China hit by 'once a century' fear of flooding

11 missing, thousands evacuated as storms strike south China, swelling rivers and raising fears of severe flooding
A cyclist peddles past flood waters near a river in Qingyuan City, in China’s southern Guangdong Province on April 21.

A cyclist peddles past flood waters near a river in Qingyuan City, in China’s southern Guangdong Province on April 21. (Photo: AFP)

Published: April 22, 2024 05:31 AM GMT
Updated: April 22, 2024 05:40 AM GMT

Eleven people are missing following storms that battered southern China, state media said on April 22, with tens of thousands evacuated away from the torrential downpours.

Heavy rain has descended upon the vast southern province of Guangdong in recent days, swelling rivers and raising fears of severe flooding that state media said could be of the sort only "seen around once a century."

"A total of 11 people are missing after continuous heavy rainfall hit many parts of (Guangdong) in recent days," state news agency Xinhua said, citing the local emergency management department.

More than 53,000 people have been relocated across the province, it added.

Of those, more than 45,000 were evacuated from the northern Guangdong city of Qingyuan, which straddles the banks of the Bei River, a tributary in the wider Pearl River Delta, state media reported Sunday.

Heavy rain is expected to continue on April 22, with meteorological authorities forecasting "thunderstorms and strong winds in Guangdong's coastal waters" -- a stretch of sea bordering major cities including Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

Neighboring provinces, including parts of Fujian, Guizhou and Guangxi, will also be affected by "short-term heavy rainfall," the National Meteorological Centre said.

"It is expected that the main impact period of strong convection will last from daytime until night," it added.

Guangdong province is China's densely populated manufacturing heartland, home to around 127 million people.

In the town of Jiangwan, six people were injured and a number were trapped in landslides caused by heavy rain on April 21, state media reported.

Photographs published by state broadcaster CCTV showed waterfront homes destroyed by a wall of brown mud, and people sheltering in a soaked public sports court.

CCTV reported that floods as high as 5.8 meters (19 feet) above the warning limit would strike in Pearl River tributaries on April 22 morning.

China is no stranger to extreme weather but recent years have seen the country whiplashed by severe floods, grinding droughts and record heat.

Climate change driven by human-emitted greenhouse gases makes extreme weather events more frequent and intense, and China is the world's biggest emitter.

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