By Francis Markus in Beijing
With no immediate end in sight to the torrential rain and flooding stretching right across the country, the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) has deployed an emergency team to provide clean and safe drinking water to communities in one of the worst-hit areas.
The Emergency Response Team (ERT) was deployed to Tongcheng County in Hubei province, where 100,000 people are in need of drinking water supplies after the county's water system was put out of action by flooding.
Schools, kindergartens and hospitals a priority
The team is able to supply enough water for about 6,000 people, targeting schools, kindergartens and hospitals. The measure complements action by the local authorities, which have also deployed water trucks to help keep residents supplied.
The water ERT is comprised of equipment originally from the Spanish Red Cross which was transferred to the RCSC after the Sichuan Earthquake in 2008, when it was deployed to China by the IFRC. It is one of several water units, along with one mass sanitation module which supported the needs of thousands of Sichuan villagers in Mianzhu County.
Personnel from the Spanish, Austrian and British Red Cross Societies helped to train their Chinese counterparts in using the units and they now form the basis for RCSC ERTs. These have already been deployed after the Yushu earthquake in Qinghai province in 2010. But this marks the first deployment in times of flooding.
With a belt of torrential rain and flooding now affecting almost half of China's 33 provinces, on the heels of a searing drought in some areas, the RCSC has been mobilising increasing quantities of relief supplies to the affected areas.
Mobilizing the relief effort
Since the start of the heavy rain in June, RCSC has mobilised thousands of family kits, consisting of everyday household items for flood survivors, as well as dry clothing and bedding and disinfectant to curb the spread of disease.
"The torrential rains, coming on top of acute drought, create a very dangerous situation which we're already seeing in many places, because the soil is now very loose and vulnerable to landslides," said Qinghui Go, IFRC’s East Asia regional disaster management coordinator, based in Beijing.
The areas badly affected by the current floods range from Zhejiang in the east, where the authorities have evacuated 292,000 people from along the Qiantang river after heavy rains caused the river to swell dangerously, to Guizhou in China’s far southwest, where more than 312 millimeters of rain were reported to have fallen in a three-hour period.
More than one million people in eight provinces, regions and municipalities were evacuated from their homes over a five day period, according to state media reports.