BEIJING, CHINA — Fifteen people are dead and four are missing after torrential rain lashed the Chinese metropolis of Chongqing, local officials and state media said Wednesday.
“The latest round of torrential rains since Monday had killed 15 people and left four others missing in southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality as of 7 am Wednesday,” state news agency Xinhua said, citing local authorities, who confirmed the toll to AFP.
“The heavy rains, mainly seen in the areas along the Yangtze River, have triggered floods and geological disasters, disrupting the lives of more than 130,000 people in 19 districts and counties,” Xinhua added.
The confirmation of casualties comes after officials on Tuesday put in place an alert for rain-triggered disasters across large swathes of central and southwestern China.
And President Xi Jinping ordered that “authorities at all levels must give top priority to ensuring people’s safety and property”, Xinhua said Wednesday.
“Xi underlined that leading officials at all levels must take the lead in fighting the floods, put the people’s safety and property first, and strive to minimise all kinds of losses,” the agency added.
In a sign of how extensive the damage is, workers on Tuesday discovered that a closed-off railway bridge on the outskirts of Chongqing had collapsed after it was “damaged by the impact of mountain torrents”, state broadcaster CCTV said.
In neighbouring Sichuan province, authorities said more than 460,000 had been affected by the heavy rain this month, Xinhua reported.
About 85,000 people have been evacuated from their homes as a result of the rain, officials said, with “flash floods in mountainous areas” and “possible mudslides in some parts” of the country expected this week.
Scientists say that rising global temperatures — caused largely by burning fossil fuels — increase the likelihood of extreme weather events such as the flash floods and heatwaves experienced in many Asian countries in recent weeks.
The floods coincided with record heatwaves in other parts of China, with the country’s National Meteorological Center warning residents in the capital Beijing and a dozen other regions to stay indoors with temperatures topping 35 degrees Celsius.
China recorded an average of 4.1 days in which temperatures exceeded 35 degrees every month in the first half of this year, the highest since national records began in 1961, according to a National Meteorological Center statement on Sunday.
In June, Beijing sweltered through a total of 14 days of temperatures exceeding 35 degrees, matching the record set in July 2000, according to the state-run Beijing Evening News.
This week’s torrential rains in Chongqing represent one of the deadliest natural disasters to occur in China so far this year.
A deluge last November in the country’s northwestern Qinghai province claimed 16 lives, affecting more than 6,200 people from six villages, state media reported at the time.