Friday, July 18, 2014

Central and Southwest China: Concern for ancient buildings after floods

Concerns have been raised over the protection of historic towns as persistent downpours in Central and Southwest China have flooded Fenghuang, a renowned tourism destination in Hunan Province.

More than 120,000 people were relocated amid power cuts in Fenghuang on Wednesday.

The rain, however, has begun to slacken and water levels in Fenghuang have dropped, with many people returning to their homes on Thursday.

Electricity along the Tuojiang River, which runs through Fenghuang, has not been restored, although water supplies to parts of the town have been brought back online, a staff member of Fenghuang's flood prevention office surnamed Gao told the Global Times.

Reconstruction work formally started on Thursday, Gao said. No casualties had been reported as of press time.

Pictures of Fenghuang submerged by floodwaters have aroused worries among netizens and experts on ancient architecture.

Yang Zhi, owner of a traditional inn alongside the Tuojiang River, told the Global Times that everything in his inn had been washed away by floods and estimated his losses at more than 200,000 yuan ($32,234).

He blamed the government for inaccurate warning by saying that the water level of the Tuojiang River would only hit 1.5 meters above normal. The river eventually crested at 3 meters over its normal level, "So people were not prepared."

Many traditional buildings, some dating back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), were made of wood and stone and could be severely damaged by floods, Zhu Qiuli, an expert with the National Architecture Institute of China, told the Global Times.

Old towns have drainage problems and the Fenghuang  government obviously did not realize that the buildings need protection from water in such a rainy region, Zhu said.

It is also a warning for other old town governments, he added.

Wu Rucheng, director of the flood prevention office, admitted that excessive development along the river bank has changed the river's profile, making it more prone to serious flooding.

Fenghuang is currently being considered for UNESCO World Heritage Status.

Other parts of Hunan Province were also hit by severe rains. According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, more than 8 million people across seven provinces including Hunan were affected by the rainstorms which started on July 10.

A total of 34 people died in the flooding, while 21 remain missing. Some 400,000 people were relocated and 9,300 houses collapsed, while 384,300 hectares of crops were damaged, incurring a direct economic loss of more than 5.2 billion yuan.

  • Rainstorms are also expected in Hainan Province as Typhoon Rammasun makes landfall in South China on Friday. 
By Liu Sha Source:Global Times Published: 2014-7-18  

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