At least 20 dead and 27 missing in floods surrounding China’s capital Beijing, thousands evacuated

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A resident looks out over an area inundated by flood waters in the Miaofengshan region on the outskirts of Beijing, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

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BEIJING At least 20 people were killed and 27 are missing in floods surrounding China’s capital Beijing, with thousands of others evacuated to safety, state media reported Tuesday.

Days of heavy rains have prompted authorities to close train stations and evacuate people in vulnerable areas to school gyms. Homes have been flooded, roads torn apart and cars piled into stacks by the rushing waters.

The level of rainfall is rarely seen in Beijing, which generally enjoys moderate, dry summers but has experienced record-breaking extended days of high temperatures this summer. Flooding in other parts of northern China that rarely see such large amounts of rain have led to scores of deaths.

Seasonal flooding hits large parts of China every summer, particularly in the semitropical south, while some northern regions this year have reported the worst floods in 50 years.

Indicating the level of urgency, President Xi Jinping issued an order for local governments to go “all out” to rescue those trapped and minimize the loss of life and damage to property.

State media reported that 11 people died and 27 are missing in floods in the  mountains to the west of Beijing’s city center. Nine other deaths were reported in Hebei province, just outside the metropolis and the source of much of its food and labour. More than 500,000 people have been impacted by the floods, state broadcaster CCTV said, without saying how many had been moved to other locations.

In early July, at least 15 people were killed and missing in floods in the southwestern region of Chongqing, and about 5,590 people in the far northwestern province of Liaoning had to be evacuated. In the central province of Hubei, rainstorms trapped residents in their vehicles and homes.

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A traditional gate is seen inundated by flood waters in the Miaofengshan area on the outskirts of Beijing, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

China’s deadliest and most destructive floods in recent history were in 1998, when 4,150 people died, most of them along the Yangtze River.

In 2021, more than 300 people died in flooding in the central province of Henan. Record rainfall inundated the provincial capital of Zhengzhou on July 20 that year, turning streets into rushing rivers and flooding at least part of a subway line.

Employers across much of China were ordered Monday to limit outdoor work due to scorching temperatures, while the east and southwest were warned to prepare for torrential rain as the country struggled with heat, flooding and drought.

Temperatures as high as 40 C (104 F) were reported in cities including Shijiazhuang, southwest of Beijing, the capital. Highs of 35 C (95 F) to 38 C (100 F) were reported in Beijing, Guangzhou in the south, Chongqing in the southwest and Shenyang in the northeast.

The weather agency issued an orange alert, its second-highest warning, for heat across southern China and much of the north and northeast. That requires employers to limit outdoor work, though delivery workers for restaurants and online retailers still were working.

The agriculture ministry warned Sunday that persistent hot weather could damage rice harvests and told local authorities to ensure adequate water supplies to prevent premature ripening of the crop.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Water Resources warned the provinces of Shandong on the east coast and Sichuan in the southwest to prepare for heavy rain from Tuesday to Friday, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. It said multiple rivers were likely to rise above safe levels.

Heavy rain triggered a landslide Saturday in the central city of Yichang in Hubei province that buried a highway construction site and killed one person. Authorities were searching Monday for seven missing construction workers, Xinhua reported.

Business and schools in Heilongjiang province in the northeast were ordered Monday to close and shut down outdoor electrical equipment after 84 millimetres (3.3 inches) of rain fell in one hour, according to state TV. It said traffic police were ordered to close dangerous road sections.

Tens of thousands of people who were driven out of their homes by earlier flooding moved to shelters in northern, central and southeastern China.

Residents of some cities have moved into underground air raid shelters to escape the heat.

Earth’s average temperature set a new unofficial record high last Thursday, the third such milestone in the hottest week on record.

Heavy flooding has displaced thousands of people around China as the capital had a relative respite from sweltering heat.

Beijing reported 9.8 straight days when the temperature exceeded 35 C (95 F), the National Climate Center said Monday.

Such a streak was last recorded in 1961 — decades before most Beijing residents had air conditioning or even fans. A lack of rainfall may be contributing to the heat, with the typically dry capital receiving even less than usual this year.

While temperatures have since moderated — Monday’s temperature at midday was 33 C (91 F) — they are expected to rise again this week to as high as 39.6 Celsius (103 Fahrenheit) in Beijing and other parts of the country, authorities said.

Meanwhile, more than 10,000 people were urgently moved to safety due to flooding in the central province of Hunan, the Xiang’xi Emergency Management Bureau on Sunday.

Around 70 houses collapsed, 2,283 were damaged and farm fields were flooded. Losses so far have been estimated at least 575 million yuan (US$79 million).

To the north in Shaanxi province’s Zhenba county, authorities reported the worst flooding in 50 years had washed out roads and damaged homes.

No deaths have been reported from the floods thus far but several are missing in floods.

The heat this year has been unusual, although China has regular summer flooding. Eleven provinces — around half of China’s land area — were expected to received heavy rains in coming days, mainly in the humid south.

In 2021, more than 300 people died in the central province of Henan. Record rainfall inundated the provincial capital of Zhengzhou on July 20 that year, turning streets into rushing rivers and flooding at least part of a subway line.

China’s worst floods in recent history were in 1998, when 4,150 people died, most of them along the Yangtze River.

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Beijing and parts of northern China are experiencing record temperatures, with authorities urging people to limit their time outdoors.

The Nanjiao observatory in southern Beijing on Saturday for the first time recorded temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for a third consecutive day, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

In nearby Hebei province and the port city of Tianjin, temperatures also soared above 40 C over the past few days, prompting authorities to issue “red” alerts for extreme weather.

In China’s four-tier weather alert system, red indicates the most severe conditions, ones with potential health and safety hazards.

Other countries in Asia have experienced deadly heat waves in recent weeks, which scientists say are aggravated by rising global temperatures, caused partly by the burning of fossil fuels.

Beijing experienced its second-hottest day on record Thursday, when temperatures soared to 41.1 C (106 F). It was also the highest temperature ever recorded in China’s capital during the month of June.

The city experienced its all-time recorded high of 41.9 C (107 F) on July 24, 1999.

Chinese meteorologists say the current heat wave was caused by warm air masses associated with high-pressure ridges in the atmosphere, compounded by thin cloud covers and long daylight hours around the summer solstice.

The hot weather has coincided with a three-day public holiday, the Dragon Boat Festival, devoted to eating rice dumplings and racing boats propelled by teams of paddlers.

Beijing’s weather authorities urged residents to avoid exercising outdoors for long periods and take measures to shield from the sun.

Temperatures in the capital were expected to drop to around 34 C (93 F) Monday before rising again later next week.

Shanghai saw its hottest day in May for more than 100 years on Monday with temperatures hitting 36.1 C, continuing a brutal trend of unusually hot weather in the country since March.

Several southern Chinese provinces are expected to swelter under extreme heat over the next few days and weather experts have already predicted another blistering summer, a repeat of last year’s record-breaking more than two-month stretch.

The peak recorded by the Shanghai Meteorological Bureau on Monday beat the previous May record of 35.7 C set in 1876, 1903, 1915 and 2018, according to bureau statistics.

Temperatures in the region typically climb even higher in June, July and August.

Earlier, many localities in Sichuan province, which is home to more than 80 million people, issued high-temperature warnings, with some areas maxing out at 42 C, local media reported.

In the next three to five days, the maximum temperature in some cities in Sichuan, located in China’s southwest, will reach 38 C, and hit 42 C in some areas, according to state media.

The China Meteorological Administration said that in the period to Wednesday most of southern China, including Guizhou, Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, will see temperatures rise above 35 C, with some areas reaching 37 to 39 C.

China, known for extreme weather conditions, has also been experiencing torrential rains for weeks in some regions.

Thousands of people were evacuated in northeast Sichuan province as of Monday, a precaution due to heavy rainfall in the area, local emergency response authorities said.

Meanwhile neighbouring Chongqing municipality warned of a flooding risk on Monday, expecting water levels at the Jialing river, a tributary of the Yangtze, to rise about 6 metres on Tuesday due to heavy downpours and reservoir dispatching.

Heatwaves are breaking records around the world, from India and Thailand to the normally mild U.S. Pacific Northwest, with scientists predicting that global average temperatures will likely surge to record levels in the next five years.

In particular, a combination of a new El Niño weather pattern starting this June and the continued release of climate-changing emissions will “push global temperatures into uncharted territory,” scientists predicted in a report released on Wednesday.

This will have far-reaching repercussions for health, food security, water management and the environment. We need to be prepared,” warned Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization.

Here’s how climate change is contributing to new global heat extremes – and human risks:


Yes. Climate change is fueling a range of extreme weather around the world, from flooding and storms to droughts, but the change it is most clearly producing is more extreme heat.

A record-breaking heatwave across India, Bangladesh, Laos and Thailand in April 2023, for instance, was at least 30 times more likely because of climate change, scientists from the World Weather Attribution group said on Wednesday.

Continued use of oil, coal and gas to power homes, cars and the world’s economy results in the release of gases that blanket the planet, trapping ever more of the sun’s energy in the atmosphere rather than letting much of it escape.

About 90% of that excess energy – or heat – has so far been absorbed by the world’s oceans, moderating temperature increases.

But ocean surface temperatures are now at their highest level ever recorded, say scientists.

They fear seas may be reaching the limits of their heat-absorbing abilities, which could mean more heat stuck in the atmosphere – and soaring thermometers.


Many people look forward to hot summer temperatures, and photographs on sweltering days often show people at the beach or splashing in fountains.

But heat can be deadly, and many people are unprepared for the level of heatwaves that are now appearing and that are predicted in the future, scientists say.

Extreme heat stress has already doubled in the last 40 years, according to the U.S. space agency NASA.

Especially in already humid places, when heat and humidity combine to produce a so-called “wet bulb” temperature above 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit), the human body can no longer effectively get rid of enough heat, scientists say.

In such extreme heatwave conditions – which are becoming much more frequent around the world – those exposed can die without swift access to air conditioning, fans or other cooling.

Residents of already hot countries, from India to Iran, are at particular risk – but so are people in normally cooler places such as the U.S. Pacific Northwest, who may not understand the risks or have access to cooling technology.

In 2021, a powerful heatwave killed at least 112 people in the U.S. state of Washington, with 1,400 dying across the broader region, including in Canada.

In Europe, a series of heatwaves between June and August 2022 caused over 20,000 heat-related deaths, particularly in countries such as Spain and France, health agencies estimate.


Building awareness that heatwaves are becoming increasingly deadly is a first key step, doctors and scientists say.

Heat researchers have proposed giving heatwaves names, as now happens with hurricanes and storms, to emphasize the level of threat they present to people.

Ensuring that those in the path of heatwaves have access to reliable cooling is also crucial – a problem when increased demand for cooling during heatwaves can spark power outages.

Because growing use of air conditioning can drive more climate change and produce even hotter temperatures, finding low-carbon means of cooling – such as using wind and solar power to generate electricity – is crucial, scientists say.

Shifting work and school hours to cooler parts of the day and providing more breaks for workers can also save lives, scientists say, as can finding simple, low-cost ways to make homes and workplaces cooler, such as painting roofs white.


If oil, gas and coal emissions continue and heatwaves worsen, especially hot parts of the planet could become unliveable, sparking mass migration and potentially large-scale deaths if people are unable to find respite from the heat.

Extreme heat could also spur other types of disasters, from water shortages as more water evaporates in hot conditions to worsening droughts, wildfires and losses of nature.

Heatwaves could also hurt economies as workers – especially those toiling outdoors, such as farmers – find it increasingly difficult to do their jobs, or as heat-blighted crops fail, adding to the planet’s already growing numbers of hungry people.

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