Lethal heavy rain hits northern China

Despite weather warnings, downpours have resulted in 20 deaths and 33 missing persons in Beijing and Hebei, Xinhua has reported.

Heatwaves in northern China gave way to heavy rain brought by Typhoon Doksuri. On 29 July, the China Central Weather Bureau (CWB) issued a red warning of rain for Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei – only the second time that warning has been issued since its launch in 2010.

Under this warning, the government advised people to stay home, schools were closed and there were widespread evacuations in many cities and villages. CWB said that in terms of duration and volume the rain is even more severe than the Beijing storm of July 2012.

The flooding was particularly severe in Mentougou, Beijing, and Zhuozhou, Hebei. Homes were damaged, and many cars lost. The death toll in the two municipalities has reached 20, with 33 people still missing.

A luxury hotel in Beijing’s suburbs was flooded, as were many warehouses in Hebei. A viral social media post from BooksChina showed soaked books and called for help for trapped employees.

This year, northern China has faced a string of extreme weather events, from spring sandstorms to early summer heatwaves, culminating in these floods. While official climate attribution studies are yet to be released, it is increasingly evident that climate change is amplifying the frequency and intensity of such events.

Yushan Han, a PhD student in climate science at the University of California, Davis, told Jiemian that the path and intensity of typhoons is changing with global warming. The extreme rain was partly the result of the slower movement of the remnants of Typhoon Doksuri, he added. A study published in Nature in 2018 showed that typhoons move more slowly in a warmer climate.

Immediate climate adaptations are urgently required to address such challenges, including robust climate-risk assessments when selecting locations for buildings and other infrastructure.

More effective emergency-response measures are also imperative for mitigating the impact of future calamities. The situation demands a united effort from both the government and the public to confront the pressing reality of climate change and safeguard the wellbeing of affected communities.

Read China Dialogue’s article on improving China’s extreme weather response.