China: Worst floods in decade force 8 million from homes

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

China is experiencing its worst floods in a decade as heavy rains, floods and landslides across southern and central China have left 701 people dead and 347 missing. A total of 27 out of 31 provinces and municipalities in the country, mostly along the Yangtze River, have been lashed by storms. Official figures now indicate that up to 110 million people are affected, of which about 8 million have had to be evacuated from flooded areas. This includes up to 250,000 people in Guang’an in Sichuan Province, still recovering from the 2008 earthquake.

The situation has deteriorated over the last couple of weeks with new storms and continuing rains. Since July 1, around 645,000 homes have been destroyed leaving millions homeless. Approximately seven million hectares of farmland have been flooded and crops destroyed.

A third typhoon this season, named Chantu, landed in the southern coastal area of Guangdong Province around noon on July 22, then weakening as it moved to neighboring Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in the evening. Over one million people were affected and 2915 houses collapsed, according to officials at the provincial flood control headquarters. The situation is being closely monitored as more rain and flooding is expected. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has this week highlighted the need for increased disaster prevention efforts.

Fears the floods may have a similar impact to those in 1998 when over 4000 people were killed and around 18 million forced to leave their homes, have been reduced as the government says it expects improved emergency prepared to lessen the severity of this year’s floods. The performance of the massive Three Gorges Dam in helping prevent flooding is being closely monitored as water levels rise.

National and international response
The government has mounted a massive relief effort with around 287,000 military personnel mobilized to assist with rescue work. It has allocated US$ 54.6 million for relief work in six of the most severely affected areas. Relief materials, including tents, rice and quilts, have been distributed. Local authorities are evacuating people and supporting preparedness and damage mitigation measures against the expected worsening flood situation.

National organizations, including the Red Cross and the Chinese Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, are responding with the provision of relief assistance

ACT response
Chinese ACT member, Amity Foundation, is in close contact with its local partners in some of the affected areas, including Chongqing, Shaanxi and Hubei. Amity also has staff working closely with local authorities in Yunnan. Amity's partners are conducting rapid assessments of damages, needs of the affected population and issues related to logistics and availability of relief materials in the local markets. Amity will also draw on assessments by the government, other NGOs and the Chinese Red Cross. Information collected to date by Amity’s local partners indicates the urgent need for shelter, basic household items and food rations, including cooking oil. 

The government plans to provide or has already provided tents, rice and clean water to families to support their immediate survival especially in the most heavily affected areas. However, it is expected NGOs will meet the gaps in additional urgent needs to complement this assistance from the government including cooking oil and basic household items.

Amity's proposed emergency response includes providing supplementary nutrition, daily commodities and shelter items to meet gaps in crisis phase assistance and to minimize the suffering of 3000 vulnerable families. Amity also plans to contribute to the rehabilitation of the livelihoods of 500 households, the houses of 50 families and five irrigation/dam systems, serving the poorest and most vulnerable communities in secondary affected and remote areas. To contribute to the disaster reduction efforts of communities frequently affected by floods and related hazards.

Amity expects a big gap in unmet needs in more remote areas and in some areas classified as secondary flood-affected. Therefore, Amity will first focus on assisting people in the areas that are also severely damaged by the floods but which are likely to receive less support.

ACT Alliance is today issuing a preliminary appeal for approximately US$ 800,000.