Nearly 4 Million Chinese Displaced or Evacuated from Country’s Worst Flooding in Over 20 Years

An aerial photo shows the extent of flooding in Guzhen Town of Lu’an City in eastern China’s Anhui province on July 20. (Tang Yang/Xinhua via AP)

First China was hit by the novel coronavirus. Now it is dealing with the worst flooding in more than 20 years across vast swaths, from its southwestern interior to its east coast.

Zeng Hailin is one of an estimated 3.7 million people displaced or evacuated because of floods in China largely since June.

He lost his job in a uniform factory in Zhejiang province because of the coronavirus pandemic, so he returned to his hometown a few hours away, in Anhui province. His troubles didn’t end there. In July, weeks of torrential rain led the small river near his house to overflow.

One night, he woke up in a panic.

“The water was suddenly up to my chest,” he remembers. “I could not lift my mother out of bed. I could barely walk because the ground turned to slippery mud.”

Zeng eventually put his bedridden 81-year-old mother in a large plastic wash basin to float her to a rescue boat.

He now lives in a classroom in the local public school while waiting for new housing. His mother is staying with other relatives.

The Ministry of Emergency Management estimates that nearly 55 million people from 27 provinces have suffered from record-setting floods. More than 40,000 houses collapsed; at least 158 people are dead or missing.

The country’s Water Resources Ministry says at the worst point in mid-July, 433 rivers rose to dangerous levels. Some broke through dams or overflowed their banks, flooding nearby villages like Hekou in Anhui province.

“The road in front of our house became a river. We were stuck in our house for days with only some bread, water and instant noodles,” said Tang Anfeng, a resident of Hekou village just outside the city of Hefei.

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SOURCE: NPR, Emily Feng