Amateur images, videos show severe floods threatening local livelihoods in China

Left: a man attempts to save merchandise from a flooded shop. Center: Flooding above Three Gorges Dam. Right: a motorcycle riding against currents.
Left: a man attempts to save merchandise from a flooded shop. Center: Flooding above Three Gorges Dam. Right: a motorcycle riding against currents.

Flooding along southern China's Yangtze River has forced more than 100,000 people from their homes. Heavy rains began this past weekend of August 15 and have continued steadily, leading to rapidly rising water levels. On social media, local residents are sharing dramatic videos and images.

On Wednesday, August 19, the combination of severe flooding and resulting mudslides prompted Chinese authorities to create a level two national emergency response alert, the second highest level in the system. The same day, authorities made the decision to open all ten of the spillways on the Three Gorges Dam to help reduce overflowing levels of a reservoir on the Yangtze, the first time this has ever happened. 

In this video, shared on August 19, a man on a scooter attempts to ride against raging river currents.

This week’s flooding is some of the worst in Sichuan province in decades. For the first time in history, authorities raised the flood warning to the highest possible level in the region on Tuesday August 17.


Flooding above the Three Gorges Dam in Sichuan. Shared on Twitter on August 17, the day the flood level was raised.

Toes of Leshan’s Giant Buddha statue threatened

That same day, the river’s waters rose up to reach the toes of Leshan’s Giant Buddha statue – marking the highest levels in over 70 years, according to China state media platform Xinhua. The 71-metre statue is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Officials tried to create a dam from sand bags to slow the river’s rise and evacuated the area.

Image shared on Twitter by user @Mxmsl of flooding in Leshan, sent by a family member. The river’s waters reached the toes of the 71-metre Buddha statue.

Widespread evacuations and shops devastated

The floods and mudslides have forced evacuations, completely erasing homes and city blocks in some places. The video below shows many of Chongqing’s residents being evacuated on the evening of August 19. All inhabitants who live on the third floor of their building or below were told to evacuate.


In this video, shared on Twitter on August 19, police with flashing lights evacuate residents. The caption reads: “Chongqing at this moment. All evacuated below the third floor of the old city. All will be flooded!”


The Yangtze, which is 6,300 kilometres long, is the world’s third longest river, and the longest in Asia. Flooding in the summers is common around the river, but this year has been particularly severe. Heavy rains first began in June. In the following two months, over 55 million people were affected.


This video, sent by one of our Observers, shows a man attempting to salvage clothing from a flooded shop. Water levels are nearly to his chest.

The basin along the Yangtze provides 70 percent of rice production in China. The Ministry of Emergency Management projects that the direct economic costs of the flooding will amount to over 17.7 billion euros, accounting for ruined farmland, roads, and infrastructure.

Article by Sophie Stuber