Farmers rue losses from devastating flooding

By Yang Zekun in Poyang County, Jiangxi, and Cui Jia in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2020-07-20 09:10
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Longkou village in Poyang county, Jiangxi province, stands inundated by floodwaters on Thursday. FENG YONGBIN/CHINA DAILY

Villagers near Poyang Lake forced to evacuate

After his village near Poyang Lake in Jiangxi province was hit by ruinous flooding this month, Huang Guoqi had to abandon his home and move to a disaster relief shelter.

Huang, 50, is a farmer from Guihu, one of the villages most seriously affected by flooding in Poyang county.

On July 12, the water in China's biggest freshwater lake reached a record height of 22.6 meters, more than 3.6 meters above the warning level.

Located in the north of Jiangxi, Poyang Lake is formed from an overspill of the Yangtze River. On Tuesday, the lake covered 4,403 square kilometers, some 25 percent more than usual for this time of year. The spillover was also the worst for 10 years.

The lake's rapid encroachment, which can be seen from satellite images, was caused by continuous torrential rain and serious flooding on the Yangtze and smaller rivers, which provide water for many farming villages, including Guihu. As a result, the villages have become danger zones.

Huang plants watermelon, sugar cane and rice on his land, which can earn him about 45,000 yuan ($6,435) a year if there is no flooding.

On July 8, flooding along the Changjiang River, which flows into Poyang Lake, engulfed Guihu, leaving an 80-meter-long cavity along the embankment.

After hearing onrushing water, Huang, who was working in his watermelon field, initially hurried toward his house to move some of his belongings to the second floor. However, on sensing the danger, he realized this would be impossible, and ran for his life.

"I later discovered home appliances under the water on the ground floor, which was about 1 meter deep. I couldn't help crying, because I'd never been in such a terrible situation," Huang said.

Since July 9, he and more than 800 other villagers affected by the flooding have been staying at the relief station, set up in a primary school in Poyang, the county seat.

On July 11, Huang returned home by boat to retrieve some clothing. He lives alone at the house, which was renovated last year. His wife works in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, and his son and daughter are also away.

He said his children have phoned many times to comfort him and to tell him not to worry about possessions lost to the flooding.

Huang said he has been told the floodwaters will not subside completely until the end of next month. He is not unduly worried about his farm produce and belongings, as there is little he can do but wait.

However, what bothers him most is his son's wedding. The ceremony, due to be held at Huang's house at the end of this year, looks as though it will fall victim to the flooding. The house will also need to be renovated again once the waters subside.

To calm his nerves, Huang lit a cigarette with a lighter borrowed from a villager at the shelter, where 17 people sleep in a single classroom. Taking a gentle puff, he said he is worried that because of the flooding, he may not have enough money for the wedding.

Since the start of this year, the family has had almost no income and only has savings of 200,000 yuan, about half the cost of the wedding and other arrangements, he said.

"We thought my wife, my son and myself could earn some money this year and borrow some from my daughter and other relatives. But now everyone has been affected by the flooding, it will be difficult to borrow," he said.

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