1,000 rescue teams rush to flood-hit Zhuozhou
Published: Aug 02, 2023 10:38 PM
Rescue workers evacuate residents by rubber boats in Zhuozhou, North China's Hebei Province. The region has been hit by floods due to heavy rainfall Photo: IC

Rescue workers evacuate residents by rubber boats in Zhuozhou, North China's Hebei Province. The region has been hit by floods due to heavy rainfall Photo: IC

Zhuozhou, a city neighboring Beijing with a permanent population of 600,000 people, has become the worst-hit flood region after days of heavy rain. 

In the past two days, more than 1,000 rescue teams have rushed to the flood-hit city in North China's Hebei Province. While the situation has generally improved in the eastern parts of the city, floodwaters remained in the western parts of the city as some residents were still awaiting rescue as of Wednesday afternoon. 

From 8 am on Saturday to 11 am on Tuesday, Zhuozhou was hit by heavy rainfall with the average precipitation reaching 355.1 millimeters, according to local officials. As of 10 am Tuesday, a total of 133,913 people from 146 villages in Zhuozhou had been impacted by rainstorms, affecting an area of 225.38 square kilometers. On Tuesday afternoon, the water supply was cut off citywide while power was lost in some parts of the city.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 125,100 people from 124 villages in Zhuozhou had been evacuated to safety. Zhuozhou has organized 28 emergency rescue teams, consisting of a total of 8,755 members, to cooperate with professional rescue teams, including the Blue Sky Rescue Team, a Chinese civil relief squad.

According to online help forms, many residents and villagers have lost cell phone connections.

A widely circulated form on the internet for registering rescue needs shows that many of the stranded people were in urgent need of dry food and water, and medication. Additionally, local communication problems and power outages have hindered cell phone charging, making some stranded individuals unable to maintain contact with others.

Zhuozhou is also an important logistics hub city. There are hundreds of publishing house book warehouses located in the city, and nearly all of them have been flooded. According to media reports, at least several million books have been affected by the floods. The transshipment warehouses of some logistics groups in Zhuozhou have also been impacted by the flooding.

According to a video sent to the Global Times by a Zhuozhou resident surnamed Wang, the water in a street near him had flooded the cars. Wang said the rain had stopped on Wednesday morning, but the water level was decreasing slowly.

Wang said residents in the western part of Zhuozhou, where the damage has been more severe, received a day's notice to evacuate. However, the water broke through the dikes and a second flood hit many parts of the city, leaving many residents without enough time to evacuate.

The situation in Zhuozhou has sparked widespread public worry and concern. Rescue teams from many other cities and provinces have rushed to Zhuozhou, some of which were set off from a relief site in Beijing, where the situation has basically stabilized. However, according to some media reports, some rescue teams were held up when entering Zhuozhou on Tuesday night.

Yan Shi, a local resident of Zhuozhou who volunteered to join the rescue efforts, confirmed to the Global Times that some rescue teams from outside the city were denied entry to Zhuozhou on Tuesday night due to incomplete formalities.

However, these problems were solved in the early hours of Wednesday morning. A member of a civil rescue team from East China's Shandong told the Global Times Wednesday afternoon that their team arrived in Zhuozhou in the early hours of Wednesday morning and everything had proceeded smoothly on the way to the city.

"We departed from Beijing's Fangshan district at about 4 am and arrived in Zhuozhou at 6 am," the rescuer, surnamed Hua, said. 

"The highway was toll-free all the way. There were individuals to guide us when we got off the highway. Local government officials showed us the way, and there were people in charge of food, accommodation and drinking water for the rescue teams."

Hua's team, the Weifang Thunder Rescue Team, took part in the rescue in Fangshan on Tuesday and rushed to Zhuozhou after the situation in Beijing improved. They had been working non-stop for 24 hours.

The water level in the eastern parts of Zhuozhou was no longer rising, and the evacuation of trapped people was almost complete, Hua told the Global Times.

The streets of Zhuozhou were almost full of rescue teams, with at least 1,000 teams arriving in the city, he said.

In the western parts of Zhuozhou, which were even more severely affected, Zhang Baowei, a member of the Heze Luying Disaster Relief Public Welfare Association who traveled from Shandong, told the Global Times Wednesday afternoon that although the rain had stopped, the water level was still slowly rising and communications were not very good.

"On Wednesday morning alone, I received over 300 calls for help," Zhang said, adding that there were still trapped people in western Zhuozhou who have not been rescued.

These civilian rescue teams have encountered some difficult situations in Zhuozhou, especially in terms of equipment.

The Luying team's rescue boat is underpowered, so it is unable to carry people forward when it encounters rapids. Moreover, there was a shortage of fuel for the rescue boat. The life jackets of the Thunder rescue team were not were not resistant enough to rapids and the rescue boat's material was not durable enough for the situation.

Hua also said that some trapped people, especially the elderly, were reluctant to be transferred because they felt there was no need to leave as they still had food at home.

Yan and some Zhuozhou residents who volunteered for the rescue operation also said their specialized equipment was insufficient, and the undercurrent in the water further affected rescues.

"Even with insufficient equipment, we are trying to save as many people as possible," Yan said. 

"Because I am a Zhuozhou local, I want to do something that a Zhuozhou local should do."

Hebei had reported nine deaths and six missing as of noon on Tuesday.

China has allocated 110 million yuan ($15.43m) to support flood prevention and disaster relief work in Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei, according to the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Emergency Management on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee allocated 44 million yuan ($6.17m) in funds to assist with flood control and disaster relief work in the region.