Few places have suffered more from the COVID-19 pandemic than southern China, the region where the novel coronavirus was first detected in the city of Wuhan. But it turned out that the pandemic is not the only calamity to befall south China this year. The region has been inundated by heavy rainfall since late May, creating a risk of catastrophic flooding. While southern China typically sees heavy rainfall in the summer months, state media reported that this year’s precipitation has been roughly 20 percent higher than normal. Other outlets report that flooding has affected over 30 million people across dozens of provinces and resulted in over 120 deaths.
Conditions have worsened dramatically over the past week. On July 10, the Yangtze River Commission, a government body responsible for flood control, raised its alert level to the second-highest category, signaling a major emergency. On July 12, meanwhile, the height of the Yangtze River near Wuhan reportedly reached the third-highest level ever recorded. Further downstream, in Jiangxi province, water levels surpassed those recorded during the 1998 flood, the worst in modern history. The same day, state media quoted top leader Xi Jinping as saying the situation was “extremely grim.”