China Faces Serious Flooding Threat: AIR, RMS

Chris Westfall
Chris Westfall

A weekend storm system fueled by Typhoon Vicente that has already caused over $1.5 billion in economic losses around the Chinese capital of Beijing and significantly more damage could happen if rains continue, according to catastrophe modeling firms AIR Worldwide and Risk Management Solutions (RMS).

“Almost seven inches of rain fell in the capital—the most since records were first kept, in 1951 and losses from this storm would have been greater had the soils been fully saturated,” according to a statement form AIR issued Monday. “Should another storm hit this area soon, the soil’s inability to absorb water could become a serious issue.”

The China storm delivered as much as 18 inches of precipitation Saturday, with as much rain hitting the capital in a single day that it receives in six months, AIR stated citing a senior engineer from China’s Ministry of Transport.

The rain was caused by a slow-moving cold front and Typhoon Vincete, which passed well south of the Chinese capital but was able to fuel moisture into the system. In addition, conditions were favorable for Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO), a circulation pattern that often creates heavy rainfall, according to Dr. Peter Sousounis, senior principal atmospheric scientist at AIR.

The rain, flooding and landslides have caused damage of at least $1.6 billion in damage, according to RMS which cited Beijing Municipal Government.

“Across Beijing, over 60,000 people were evacuated from their homes, of which over 20,000 were evacuated in the Fangshan district,” RMS said in its statement. “Emerging reports indicate widespread residential flooding in Fangshan, though the insurance penetration in the region affected is very low.”

Forecasts call for more rain in the next five days, which could increase the chances for additional losses.

“[China] is better protected against the truly catastrophic floods of the past; however, flooding is increasing along the smaller rivers and lakes because of China’s increasing population, whereby urbanization without strict land management continues to cause significant flood losses,” AIR’s Sousounis added.

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