Student bus plunges into reservoir, ancient bridge destroyed as toll rises from rain storms in China

SHANGHAI (REUTERS, XINHUA) – A bus carrying high school students plunged into a reservoir in south-west China on Tuesday (July 7), as days of torrential rain triggered flood warnings across large parts of the country and disrupted the first day of national college exams.

In the central city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus epidemic first erupted in December, a record-breaking 426mm of rain fell on Sunday, the official China Daily reported, and the authorities were using giant pumps to remove water from the flooded roads.

State broadcaster CCTV said the students on a bus that crashed into a reservoir in the city of Anshun in south-western Guizhou province had been on their way to sit the college entry exams.

The number of casualties had still to be confirmed.

But as of last Friday, there were 119 people dead or missing nationwide as a result of the storms, while the emergency ministry estimated economic losses to be in excess of 40 billion yuan (S$7.9 billion).

In east China’s Anhui province, a bridge dating back over 480 years to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) collapsed in floodwaters.

Zhenhai Bridge, a state-level cultural relics protection site located in Tunxi District in the city of Huangshan, was destroyed by the roaring Xin’an River at 9.50am during a heavy rainstorm starting Monday evening.

The bridge, 133m long and 15m wide, was initially constructed in 1536 and rebuilt several times in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

And on Monday, another ancient bridge was torn down by the force of raging stream in the same province.

In footage shared by the Global Times newspaper, a woman could be heard gasping as the 400-year-old Lecheng bridge crumbled.

According to the Global Times, the bridge was recognised as the biggest “ancient bridge” in the city of Xuancheng, Anhui Province.

Guizhou, Anhui, Hunan and Hubei provinces were expected to record 250-280mm of rain on Tuesday, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

With nearly 11 million students set to sit their college exams, the weather agency warned parents to heed forecasts and prepare school journeys carefully.

Exams in some parts of Anhui province were postponed as a result of the worst flooding for 50 years, the local government reported.

The city of Qianjiang in the central province of Hubei became the first city to issue a Level 1 flood response alert on Monday after roads and farmland were inundated.

Authorities in Hubei and neighbouring Hunan province have also issued orange flood alerts – the second highest – with some rivers 2-3m higher than warning levels, according to water ministry data.

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