Half a million Chinese were evacuated from their homes in anticipation of the arrival of Typhoon Soulik. In Taiwan, the typhoon has already killed two people and injured 104 while one person still remains missing. According to the Chinese weather agency, the typhoon has been downgraded to a tropical depression, leading to waves of flooding. Villages like Xiamen, for example, were pounded by 40 cm of rain in 24 hours, while the village of Bailan was engulfed by 90 cm of water in 48 hours, leaving only chaos behind.

5,500 soldiers have been mobilized to help the inhabitants of the province of Fujian and neighboring Zheijiang brace for the upcoming typhoon, and according to the official Chinese news agency, about 31,000 boats have found shelter in harbors of the region.

The storm comes on the heels of a landslide that buried 30 to 40 people alive in Zhongxing, a city in the province of Sichuan, South-Western China.  Many parts of China have been inundated by torrential rains during the past week, and the province of Sichuan has been hit particularly hard. Numerous rivers in the region have overflowed their banks, destroying 3 bridges and more than 300 homes. Chinese officials estimate that 36,800 people have been evacuated from the Sichuan region, and the arrival of Typhoon Soulik is only making matters worse.

Meanwhile, the Qingdao coastal ecosystem has been plagued by the invasion of green sea algae for the past seven years. This year, the algae bloom started in mid-June and since then, authorities have cleaned up more than 20,000 tons of algae from beaches, converting it to animal feed. Although the algae is not toxic, it is very smelly and its density poses a threat to the Qingdao ecosystem.

The natural catastrophes China is currently facing remind us of the importance of environmental protection and sustainability programs. China, one of the most rapidly developing economies in the world, is the leading emitter of greenhouse gases, producing “23 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide” compared to 21 percent for the United States. In 2006 alone, China produced 6.23 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide versus 5.8 billion metric tons for the U.S.  The general increase in carbon dioxide emissions is mainly due to increased cement production and coal consumption, but also to the higher standards of living the Chinese middle class aspires to, based on the Western model.

The meteorological events occurring in China serve as a warning that, when Mother Nature decides to strike, it isn’t easy to fight back. Environmental preparedness and protection as well as emergency response aid are necessities for the survival of the human race.

Lauren Yeh
Sources: Le Monde