China intensifies flood rescue efforts south of Beijing after historic rains

BEIJING, (Reuters) – China on Wednesday dispatched thousands of rescue workers to Zhuozhou, a flooded city of over 600,000 residents southwest of Beijing, as the remnants of Typhoon Doksuri continued to wreak havoc on the city.

Zhuozhou is in Hebei province, which has borne the brunt of the worst storms to hit northern China in over a decade, killing least 20 people. The city also borders Beijing, which was inundated with the most rainfall in 140 years between Saturday and early Wednesday, official data showed.

See: Thousands flee homes as heavy rain lashes China after Typhoon Doksuri

Authorities in Hebei have declared a state of emergency as rainfall averaged 355mm since Saturday.  This is the heaviest since at least July 2012. More than 134,000 Zhuozhou residents have been affected, with over one-sixth of the city’s population evacuated.

At the confluence of several rivers, Zhuozhou is one of the hardest hit cities in Hebei as floodwaters migrated downstream. According to state media, residential areas more than twice the size of the French capital are waterlogged. Nearly 650 hectares of agricultural land is affected.

The local public security bureau said on Tuesday the city faced water shortages and a partial power outage. It urgently needed rafts, life jackets and emergency supplies. Residents said waters rose as high as four metres.

Some 9,000 rescuers have been dispatched to Zhuozhou, with more rescue teams rushing over from neighbouring Henan and Shanxi provinces, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Many Zhuozhou residents took to social media to complain about how long rescue and recovery efforts were taking. “We are taking on the flood water discharge from Beijing, so they should provide us with rescue and equipment, but there has been nothing,” a netizen vented on China’s popular microblog Weibo.

Floods have also hit warehouses in the city, a logistics hub. Hebei authorities said they had opened another flood diversion area in Yongding River on Wednesday to help ease the flooding., an online bookstore, said on its WeChat account on Tuesday night their staff were waiting for rescue workers. The fourth floor of their warehouse where over four million books were stored was flooded.

As the floodwaters flow south, the authorities in the city of Gaobeidian have evacuated 113,000 residents. They also opened reservoirs to trap the excess water, Xinhua reported.

In Japan, a typhoon has also struck its southwestern Okinawa prefecture. The storm is expected to veer westwards in the East China Sea. But it then may turn northeast, potentially towards Japan’s third largest island Kyushu.

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