More Heavy Rain Predicted for China After Floods Kill Dozens

Rainstorm Hits Wuhan
Vehicles pack a flooded street after heavy rainfall on June 18, 2011 in Wuhan, Hubei Province of China. A heavy rainstorm hit Wuhan on Saturday, causing flooding across the region. Photograph: ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images

More rains are predicted for parts of China in the next several days after flooding killed dozens and forced thousands to flee their homes.

Heavy rain is forecast to hit Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces before moving east to Henan and Shandong, the National Meteorological Center said today. Rain in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River will ease, it said on its website.

While the downpours brought floods to central regions, closing airports and roads, they helped end the worst drought in decades, restoring reservoirs and aiding crops in the world’s biggest grower of cotton and rice. That may also help ease inflation that accelerated to 5.5 percent in May, the most since 2008. Poyang, the country’s largest freshwater lake, returned to normal levels, the official Xinhua News Agency said on June 18.

The wet spell “helped farmers finish planting mid-season rice, likely doing more good than harm” except in flood-affected areas, said Wang Fang, analyst at research company, owned by China Grain Reserves Corp., the manager of the country’s food stockpiles. Apart from rice and cotton, the rains have helped corn where China is the second-biggest grower.

The floods killed 175 people and left at least 86 missing from June 3 to June 20, and hundreds of thousands were evacuated, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said in a statement today.

Gansu Rains

Heavy rains have hit northwest China’s Gansu province since June 15, affecting a total of 19,742 people in 19 towns in the province, Xinhua reported today, citing the provincial Department of Civil Affairs said on Monday.

Floods triggered by the heavy rains in the coastal province of Zhejiang killed two people and left one missing as of 6 p.m. Monday, and caused 5.35 billion yuan ($826 million) of damage, the provincial government said in a statement on its website.

Seven provinces including Hubei had a record 60 days without precipitation between March and May, said Chen Zhenlin, a spokesman for the China Meteorological Administration. Shanghai had the least rain through May in 138 years, the city weather bureau said. The dry spell delayed planting of indica rice crops and pushed futures in Zhengzhou to a three-month high.

“While the change from drought to floods seems surprising, the Yangtze River regions are known to have floods every year, and so far there are no signs this year has been particularly worse,” Tommy Xiao, an analyst at Shanghai JC Intelligence Co., said by phone from Shanghai.

Crops Helped

For most regions, rains aided grain crops including rice and corn, Xiao said. For wheat, northern China was “lucky” to have already harvested the winter crop, he said.

The downpours drenched cotton in Jiangxi, Hubei and Hunan, FCStone Fibers & Textiles wrote in a research note June 17. “Producer sentiment generally remains upbeat” for replanting and reasonable yields if drier days return, it said.

The lower and middle areas of the Yangtze will be mostly dry and cloudy, the weather office said.

Rains forecast to move to Henan and Shandong will help corn and cotton in those areas, Xiao said. Henan and Shandong are among China’s top five corn and cotton producing regions, according to the China Agricultural Yearbook published by the Ministry of Agriculture.

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