BEIJING (AP) — Thousands of people threatened by storm-swollen rivers were evacuated in China’s northeast on Friday while areas on the outskirts of Beijing cleared debris from flooding that wrecked roads, knocked out power and left neighborhoods in shambles.
China is struggling with record-breaking rains in some areas while others suffer scorching summer heat and drought that threatens crops. Flooding near Beijing and in neighboring Hebei province this week killed at least 22 people.
Resident Xie Xin in the western outskirts of Beijing said the floodwaters had risen so fast that his family house was submerged in less than 10 minutes.
“Objects can be replaced,” said Xie, 25, as he moved a desk. “But neighbors that have gone missing, this is what hits me the most.”
In the northeast, some 54,000 people were forced out of their homes around Harbin, the biggest city in Heilongjiang province, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. It said rescue crews in 81 boats were evacuating residents.
On Thursday, a highway bridge in Heilongjiang collapsed, sending two cars plunging into the Mudan River, according to state media. There was no word on possible deaths or injuries.
The Haihe Basin, which includes Beijing and nearby major cities, was experiencing its heaviest flooding since 1963, the Ministry of Water Resources said Friday.
The death toll in Beijing and the neighboring province of Hebei rose to 22 after the body of a volunteer rescuer was found in a river. Another rescuer was declared dead Wednesday after a rubber boat flipped in a raging river.
Beijing recorded its heaviest rainfall in at least 140 years as the remnants of Typhoon Doksuri deluged the region, according to the weather agency.
Some 1.2 million people in Hebei were relocated, according to the government. It said more than 100,000 government employees were mobilized for relief work.
Rains that started last weekend overwhelmed drainage systems. School classes in Beijing, China’s capital of more than 20 million people, were suspended. Power to some areas was knocked out.
To protect Beijing, flood waters were diverted to neighboring areas, prompting complaints Friday on social media that destruction could have been reduced if more water had been channeled through the capital’s rivers and canals.
“Do people in another city have to be superior and sacrifice this place to protect them?” said a posting on the Sina Weibo social media platform. “I think it’s really unspeakable.”
In the Mentougou, a district of more than 260,000 people on the western outskirts of Beijing, residents on Friday were clearing mud out of their homes. The district was the hardest hit around the capital.
A resident of the district’s Nanxinfang Village, Li Mingmei, said the floodwaters nearly reached her head.
“People in our village were washed away,” said Li, 45. “It was very fortunate for us to be at least alive. What about people who didn’t make it?”
The city recorded 744.8 millimeters (29.3 inches) of rain between Saturday and Wednesday morning, the Beijing Meteorological Bureau said.
In Zhuozhou, southwest of Beijing, about 125,000 people from high-risk areas were moved to shelters, Xinhua said.
In early July, at least 15 people were killed by floods in the southwestern region of Chongqing.
China’s deadliest and most destructive floods in recent history were in 1998, when 4,150 people died, most of them along the Yangtze River.
In 2021, more than 300 people died in flooding in the central province of Henan. Record rainfall inundated the provincial capital of Zhengzhou, turning streets into rushing rivers and flooding a subway line, trapping passengers in the cars.
Meanwhile, in the eastern Shandong province, authorities also warned of flooding risks as water levels on the Zhangwei River continued to rise.
China was largely spared by Typhoon Khanun, which on Thursday lashed Japan, damaging homes and knocking out power on Okinawa and other islands.
China’s National Meteorological Center had expected the typhoon to make landfall in Zhejiang province south of Shanghai. Authorities called ships into port and halted passenger ferry services.
AP news assistant Caroline Chen contributed.