BEIJING – Widespread flooding in southern and central China has left dozens of people dead or missing in recent weeks, destroyed property and sparked public anger over a lack of information and the slow pace of recovery.
The Xiangjing river that flows through the capital of densely populated, agricultural Henan province broke its banks, flooding large parts of Changsha, a city of more than 7 million people. Among the hardest-hit places was Ningxiang county, where 44 people were listed as dead or missing, official media reported Friday.
Authorities in nearby Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region have reported another 20 dead and 14 missing. Both figures are cumulative since mid- to late June.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated while the region has suffered more than $1 billion in direct economic losses, according to official reports. Power supplies and communications have been cut, while rail, road and air transport have suffered severe disruptions.
More than 11 million people in 11 southern provinces were affected by floods, landslides and hailstorms, the government has reported.
Residents and shopkeepers in Ningxiang interviewed this week by the respected financial magazine Caixin said government authorities failed to give timely warnings about the flood as compared to previous years, leading to heavy losses.
Overseas Chinese media have reported a smattering of public demonstrations over the slow pace of the emergency response while online videos purportedly showing protests have been removed by censors.
Local police said this week that two people were punished for spreading online rumors about the flooding. They urged the public to maintain social order during a "critical period."
Water levels in the Xiangjiang have exceeded records set during 1998's catastrophic flooding along the Yangtze, China's mightiest river of which the Xiangjiang is a major tributary. Levels in Dongting lake, one of China's largest freshwater water bodies, have also risen into the danger zone.