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Fewer people die in natural disasters

Hou Liqiang
Updated: Jul 09,2022 09:29    China Daily

Despite more severe flooding and a sharp increase in the number of geological disasters due to heavier rainfall, China has experienced a general decline in disaster-caused casualties, officials said on July 8.

Since the beginning of the flood season on March 17, the country has on average seen roughly 28.1 centimeters of precipitation, the highest for the same period since 2017, said Wang Yawei, an official with the China Meteorological Administration.

At a news conference organized by the State Council Information Office, he also said the amount is almost 11 percent more than the yearly average. The rainfall in the Pearl River basin has reached a record high.

To date, 18 regional torrential events have occurred, with 11 of them happening after May, Wang said. Many of the events in southern parts of the country were "not only heavy, long-lasting and wide-ranging, but also with highly overlapping affected areas."

Zhou Xuewen, secretary-general of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, said these torrential rain events left 487 rivers swelled above their warning levels. Of them, 13 experienced their biggest floods on record.

Despite the situation, the country has experienced a sharp drop in flood-caused causalities, noted Zhou, who also works as vice-minister of emergency management and water resources.

"To date, 40 people were left dead or missing across the country, a decrease of roughly 70 percent compared with the average recorded over the past five years," Zhou said.

He said the Ministry of Emergency Management has made consistent efforts to beef up its water rescue capabilities since it was established in the latest institutional reshuffle of the State Council in 2018.

In addition to the 43,000 members of the newly established national water rescue team, another 4,000 firefighters have been asked to leave their camps to stand by in 13 flood-prone regions, he said.

Many of the ministry's rescue teams have been equipped with advanced equipment, including drones and machinery that can automatically pack gravel for flood control, he said. There are now 30 helicopters in 14 key regions to facilitate their rescue missions.

The ministry has also guided local authorities to establish close coordination mechanisms with 511 rescue teams affiliated with State-owned enterprises across the country, Zhou said. The 87,000-plus rescuers, equipped with heavy machinery, are prepared to participate in rescue missions at any time.

Yu Haifeng, head of geological survey at the Ministry of Natural Resources, said 4,872 geological disasters happened in the first half of this year, more than the total last year.

The direct economic losses these disasters caused increased by 8.9 percent from the average recorded for the same period in the past five years, he said. A total of 75 people were left dead or missing, with no big change from the average.

He said the ministry managed to forecast 255 geological disasters from January to June, preventing 4,315 people from being injured or killed and avoiding direct economic losses of 290 million yuan ($43 million).