Disaster monitoring, early warning systems improved in China to protect residents from floods

Photo taken on July 22 in Tongda township, Lujiang county, Hefei, capital of east China’s Anhui province, shows a police helicopter flying to rescue people in areas affected by floods. (Photo by Zuo Xuechang/People’s Daily Online)

“Thank God we moved out of our house the night before the flood, or we would have been trapped there. The thought of what could have happened to us still terrifies us now,” said Li Baoliang, a resident in Shifeng community, Xiaoyan township, Anhua county, Yiyang, central China’s Hunan province, recalling an extreme rainstorm and the following disasters that happened on the morning of July 19.

As a matter of fact, a day before the disasters, the chief forecaster and on-duty forecasters at the Hunan provincial meteorological observatory had worked together to correct the deviations of the numerical weather prediction models, verifying real-time data on such aspects as wind filed, height field, precipitation area, intensity, and evolution of precipitation echoes.

Hunan provincial meteorological bureau gave out a yellow alert for rainstorms at 7:00 a.m. on July 18, pointing out that there would be a heavy rain in the northern and western areas of Yiyang, and torrential downpours in parts of these areas.

Upon receiving the alert, the meteorological bureau of Yiyang immediately sent out an orange alert for geological disasters to hilly and mountainous areas of Taojiang county and Anhua county.

After receiving the warning information from the publicity department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Yiyang municipal committee at 17:00 p.m. that day, the flood control staff of the news organization under direct administration of the department quickly made relevant news products, including dynamic messages, graphics and text information, and aired them to the society, particularly the residents in affected areas.

An hour later, the loudspeaker of Shifeng community was turned on, and Liu Xingguo, Party chief of the community, started reminding local residents of the rainstorm, telling them to reach out to the community management committee once they find anything abnormal.

Around the same time, Li received a message on his phone from the flood control and drought relief headquarters of Anhua county, informing him of the same matter.

Persuaded by Liu, Li and his family moved to a safe area that evening. A total of 421 residents from 95 households in Anhua county were evacuated on the same day.

At 7:00 a.m. the next day, a torrential flood caused a landslide behind Li’s house. Rocks rolled down along with the mountain torrents and rushed into the kitchen and bedrooms of the house. Luckily, all the 11 people from Li’s and his neighbor’s families had been relocated before the disaster.

In an effort to guarantee the safety of people’s lives and property, many areas in China, including Hunan, Sichuan, and Zhejiang provinces, have explored monitoring and early warning technologies and improved their alert mechanisms since the beginning of the flood season this year.

To find help and proper places for evacuation is the most concerned issue of the people once floods happen. They can react more calmly and rapidly if the monitoring and warning services get more precise and timely.

Geological disasters happening during the main flood season in Sichuan province account for as much as 70 percent of the province’s total in a year. This year, the province launched a 2.0 version of its provincial-level early warning platform for geological disasters, incorporating 6,932 vulnerable areas that affect more than 50 people each and 12,099 sets of monitoring devices into its monitoring and control system.

Residents in the province can check nearby vulnerable areas with potential geological hazards, as well as the corresponding liable officials and monitors on their mobile phones, said Xie Anjun, member of the Party organization of the Department of Natural Resources of Sichuan Province and Party chief of the organ.

East China’s Zhejiang province launched a special QR code system in June to guarantee the evacuation of residents in high-risk areas, help emergency rescue teams reach their destinations smoothly, and facilitate disaster relief and related work.

“We have the information of all the residents that need to be relocated in the system. Once the flood prevention emergency response is activated, we can easily locate them,” said an official of Taoyuanxi village, Taiyang township, Lin’an district, Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province.

During the promotion of the QR code system, Lin’an district made evacuation lists for nine types of emergencies, which covered the residents possibly affected by flash floods, living in old and dilapidated houses, as well as waterlogged urban areas. Underground parking facilities were also a key focus of the lists.

Thanks to the system, the district relocated 3,565 residents on July 6 alone.


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