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The double-edged sword of Yunnan's rainy season

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Recent flooding in northeast Yunnan's Zhaotong Prefecture
Recent flooding in northeast Yunnan's Zhaotong Prefecture

Over the past few years, precipitation in Yunnan has been feast or famine. Six dry months could pass, only to be followed by torrential rains that inflicted massive damage to both cities and countryside.

This year's rainy season, while providing many parts of the province with much needed precipitation, has also brought misery to many. So far this summer in Yunnan dozens have lost their lives and tens of thousands have been otherwise negatively affected due to rain-related disasters.

Since the rainy season officially began in late May, a reported 45 people around the province have died in flash floods or landslides. Two are still missing in northeast Yunnan's Yiliang County (彝良县) following a torrential downpour. In total, 26,500 people have been relocated in the wake of flooding at an estimated cost of 58 million yuan (US$9.5 million).

Floods in the province's northeast have been relatively mild compared to last summer when 130,000 people were driven from their homes due to heavy rainfall. Although flooding in 2013 has been less pronounced in areas often hit hard by such disasters, other parts of the province have experienced their worst flooding in years.

Two men out and about on Beijing Lu during Kunming's recent floods
Two men out and about on Beijing Lu during Kunming's recent floods

Kunming itself was inundated last month — in some low-lying areas with as much as three meters of standing water. Thousands of first floor homes and businesses in Yunnan's capital were submerged in the two-day flood.

In southern Yunnan's Xishuangbanna, the concern is not flash flooding, but water that remains stagnant after heavy rains. The area's relatively low elevation, combined with warm, balmy temperatures, have made stagnant pools a breeding ground for mosquitoes, many of which are carrying dengue fever.

In the last month, 372 cases of the disease have been reported in Xishuangbanna. Public health officials are currently working to institute what they are referring to as "preventative measures". As of this writing no one has died of the disease and 127 patients been released from hospitals to recuperate at home.

In more rosy news, the seven reservoirs that supply Kunming with its water are slowly filling. Although still nowhere near capacity, water levels have risen steadily this summer.

In early August, Yunlong reservoir — which supplies 70 percent of Kunming's water — was reportedly holding double the levels it contained at the same time in 2012. Continued steady rainfall this year may help alleviate the severe water shortages that have become a chronic hallmark of Spring City winters.

Top image: Xinhua
Bottom image: Hugh Bohane

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Sad to hear of the problems caused by the rain. But my neighbourhood has now had running water for 6 weeks, after a year and a half without. So I'm personally delighted to hear that thunder!

Are these downpurs historiclly normal?
If so,are there any statistics of these downpours resulting in floods ??
Or is it media driven and city/village infrastructure?

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