MOSCOW/Beijing/Manila/ NIAMEY - Russians in the Far East on Tuesday battled rising floodwaters as authorities evacuated more than 23,000 people and scrambled to prevent the outbreak of disease.
Heavy rains pounding Khabarovsk, a Far Eastern city located near the Chinese border, since July have swelled the local Amur River to nearly seven metres - a level unseen since monitoring of the area began in 1895.
The floodwaters damaged property, infrastructure and crops, displaced tens of thousands and raised fresh questions about the Russian government’s readiness to handle natural disasters.
There have been no reports of fatalities but more than 23,000 people have been evacuated so far, the office of the Kremlin’s Far Eastern envoy Viktor Ishayev said in a statement.
Television footage showed locals making their way through a flooded area by boat and a cow wading through muddy waters, submerged nearly up to its neck.
Locals complained that faeces were finding their way into the water. “The saddest part is that we are being flooded in shit,” a local man said in televised remarks. The floods have affected the Yakutia, Primorsky Krai and Amur and Khabarovsk regions as well as the Jewish Autonomous Oblast.
On Tuesday, the Amur river, which serves as a natural border with China where it is known as the Heilongiang river, has risen to 676 centimetres.
It is expected to rise by another 30-40 centimetres over the next two days.
Meanwhile, the death toll from devastating floods at opposite ends of China following torrential rains and the aftermath of a typhoon has risen to more than 130, the government and media said Tuesday.
Flooding in the northeast, which has been described as the worst there in decades, has killed 85 people and left 102 missing in recent days, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Another 49 people, meanwhile, have perished in Hunan, central China, and in the southern provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi, the ministry of civil affairs announced. The flooding has destroyed homes and sent rivers of mud flowing into city streets.
Desperate residents scrambled to escape the rising waters, using makeshift rafts and any implements they could find - including inflatable paddling pools - to flee. Many had to climb trees to avoid being swept away, pictures showed.
President Xi Jinping “has demanded all-out efforts in putting people’s lives first”, Xinhua reported Monday.
In Manila, more than 200,000 flood-battered residents of the Philippine capital fled their homes on Tuesday as relentless monsoon rains, which have killed eight people, submerged more than half of Manila.
Streets turned into rivers with water rising above two-metres (seven feet) in some parts of the megacity of 12 million people, while vast areas of neighbouring farming regions on the main island of Luzon were also inundated.
“I was crying when I saw my house being filled with water,” said Edita Selda, 68, a sidewalk vendor who was forced to evacuate from her home in a shantytown along a major river in Manila that burst its banks.
More than half of Manila was flooded on Tuesday morning although that figure subsided to about 20 percent by the evening, authorities said.
Meanwhile, severe flooding in drought-prone Niger has killed at least eight people, including seven children, and left around 2,000 homeless, authorities said Tuesday.
Four girls aged from two to five were killed as their homes in the central region of Maradi collapsed due to the heavy rains that have battered the west African nation since the start of the month.
Two other girls died in the rubble of their homes in a village in the southern region of Zinder where 135 millimetres of rain fell in just a few hours, according to private radio station Anfani.
Meanwhile in the northern desert region of Agadez, a five-year-old girl was killed by a falling wall and a soldier died after being swept away by strong currents.
People left homeless by the floods were sheltering in local schools, said officials in the hard-hit town of Maradi, where over 1,000 people lost their homes.
The United Nations has warned that Niger’s farmland is now threatened by a “massive” invasion of locusts as a result of the floods.