Natural disasters have killed more than 800 people in China since June.
The country has long been the subject of environmental scrutiny. Between polluted beaches, air, soil and water, officials have begun taking the long trek towards necessary change, but global warming and climatic alterations have left China and neighboring regions susceptible to circumstances beyond control.
Flooding has contributed to the deaths of nearly 1,100 people since January. Another 270 remain missing in what is labeled China’s largest casualty ratio over the last five years. Seventeen rescue missions have been conducted, and nearly 1.7 billion yuan has been contributed towards sequential disaster relief. The country has also induced losses of almost $44 billion in rain damage.
“Local governments in Hebei underestimated the intensity of the rain, failed to provide sufficient emergency response, and were late and inaccurate in disaster assessment,” says Yang Xiaodong, who heads the disaster relief department of China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs. “Torrential rain cut off local communication, power and traffic, resulting in delayed warnings about the impending deluge, failure to evacuate people in danger, and failure to report casualties in time.”
Nearly half-a-million houses have also collapsed, and over six million people have been relocated. Five officials have been suspended for failing to effectively organize evacuations. Present outrage stems over the fact that residents were not appropriately warned of the incoming storms, although heavy floods have not been witnessed in China for nearly twenty years, which left several officials unaware and in the dark about what to do. An investigation is currently underway that may result in “severe punishment,” according to Yang, if the individuals are deemed responsible or guilty in any way.
Regions hit particularly hard include the provinces of Anhui, Fujian, Guizzhou, Hebei, Hubei, Jiangsu and Jianxgxi, which have incurred economic losses totaling almost 300 billion yuan.
2014 was another disastrous year for China. An earthquake measuring 6.1 hit the township of Longtoushan in the country’s southwestern province of Yunnan on August 3rd, killing over 600 people and injuring approximately 3,000 others. Nearly a quarter million people were relocated, and over 80,000 homes were destroyed.
China is also home to some of the world’s largest (and most active) volcanoes, including Hainan Dao, Kunlun, and Changbaishan. While the latter of the three has remained dormant since the early century, signs of unrest began to emerge in 2012. Many believe this newfound activity could spark similar earthquakes in the future.
Four weeks ago, eastern China was hit by what’s being called a “freak” tornado that led to the death of nearly 100 people in the country’s province of Jiangsu.
“When the tornado hit, the wind was howling and the sky turned as dark as night,” says one surviving resident. “Within two minutes, I was swept away and then it a house… Almost all the houses here have collapsed.”
Since the flooding began, Hainan has issued warnings of a tropical storm expected to hit the region during Wednesday’s early morning hours.