China is stepping up flood relief efforts south of Beijing after historic rains

BEIJING, Aug 2 (Reuters) – China on Wednesday sent thousands of rescue workers to Zhuozhou, a flooded city of more than 600,000 people southwest of Beijing, as the remnants of Typhoon Doksuri continued to wreak havoc on parts of the city twice the size of Paris.

Zhuozhou is in Hebei province, which has borne the brunt of the worst storms to hit northern China in more than a decade, killing at least 20 people. The city also borders Beijing, which was inundated with the most rainfall in 140 years between Saturday and early Wednesday, official data showed.

Authorities in Hebei have declared a state of emergency as rainfall has averaged 355mm (14 inches) since Saturday, the heaviest since at least July 2012. More than 134,000 residents of Zhuozhou have been affected, with over a sixth of the city’s population evacuated .

At the confluence of several rivers, Zhuozhou is one of the hardest-hit cities in Hebei as floods swept downstream, according to state media, inundating residential areas more than twice the size of the French capital and affecting nearly 650 hectares of farmland.

The local public security bureau said Tuesday that the city was facing water shortages and a partial power outage, adding that it urgently needed rafts, life jackets and emergency supplies. Residents said the water rose as high as four meters (13 feet).

About 9,000 rescuers have been dispatched to Zhuozhou, and more rescue teams are rushing over from nearby Henan and Shanxi provinces, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

A satellite image taken on Tuesday showed Zhuozhou surrounded by floods on three sides. The Global Times newspaper reported that a large amount of water flowed from Beijing into three rivers around Zhuozhou.

Many Zhuozhou residents took to social media to complain about how long rescue and recovery efforts were taking. “We are dealing with the flood of water discharge from Beijing, so they should give us rescue and equipment, but there has been nothing,” said one netizen on China’s popular microblog Weibo.

Flooding has also hit warehouses in the city, a logistics center. Authorities in Hebei said they had opened another flood diversion area in the Yongding River on Wednesday to help ease the flooding.

BooksChina.com, an online bookstore, said on its WeChat account Tuesday night that its staff was waiting for rescue workers on the fourth floor of its flooded warehouse, where over four million books were stored.

As the floods flow south, authorities in the city of Gaobeidian have evacuated 113,000 residents, as well as opened reservoirs to catch the excess water, Xinhua reported.

In Japan, a typhoon has also hit its southwestern Okinawa prefecture. The storm is expected to swing west in the East China Sea, but then turn northeast, potentially toward Japan’s third-largest island of Kyushu.

Reporting by Liz Lee, Ryan Woo, Ella Cao and the Beijing and Shanghai newsroom; Editing by Miral Fahmy

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