China floods kill at least 12 people, with thousands moved to safety

The country has been in the grip of a heatwave and torrential downpours

The remainder of a bridge that was washed away by floods along a river in Qingyang, in north-west China's Gansu province, on Saturday. AP
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Flooding in Sichuan, south-west China has killed at least 12 people and led to the evacuation of nearly 2,000, state media reported on Sunday.

In Longnan city in the north-western province of Gansu, six people died and 3,000 people were evacuated, state broadcaster CCTV said. Rainfall in less than two days was as much as 98.9 millimetres in the worst-affected areas, almost double the July average.

In total, the severe weather "affected over 97,000 people across six counties and districts," according to the People's Daily, a government-linked news outlet, although it did not specify how they had been affected.

China has invested billions of dollars to reduce the impact of flooding, mainly building more dams and drainage canals. In 2020, nearly five million people had to be evacuated due to flooding — one of the worst years for weather-related displacement in recent Chinese history.

The rains come amid a heatwave in parts of the country, including eastern Zhejiang province and the city of Shanghai, with temperatures soaring as high as 42°C last week.

Experts say such extreme weather events are becoming more likely because of climate change. Warmer air can store more water, leading to bigger cloudbursts when it is released.

The flooding adds to economic woes brought on partly by stringent 'zero-Covid' measures restricting travel and disrupting supply chains.

China is not the only country experiencing extreme weather this summer. In Germany, low water levels in the Rhine due to droughts have disrupted the supply chain for commodities into the country. Heatwaves have also hit the southern part of the US, with temperatures expected to soar over 38°C in the coming days.

Updated: July 17, 2022, 7:38 PM