As floodwaters recede, Chinese city faces 'bitter' days ahead

By Tingshu Wang and Josh Arslan

ZHUOZHOU, China (Reuters) – As floodwaters began to drop over the weekend, residents of the Chinese city of Zhuozhou, southwest of Beijing, say their challenges have only just begun.

Zhuozhou bore the brunt of the worst storms to hit the northern province of Hebei in decades. More than a sixth of the city’s 600,000 inhabitants were evacuated.

“Our difficulties are only beginning now,” a Zhuozhou resident Wang Dan, told Reuters on Monday. “What’s next will be the most bitter.”

All of the inventories worth about 100,000 yuan ($13,915.75) in her clothing shop were soaked and likely damaged.

“Three years of pandemic, plus this year’s flood, I don’t know if I can keep going,” said the 30 year old.

“Now I’m going to have no customers again.”

Baoding prefecture, which administers Zhuozhou, said hundreds of bridges and hundreds of kilometres of rural roads had been water-damaged, with direct economic losses reaching nearly 17 billion yuan as of Saturday.

The owner of a local packaging factory estimated he suffered at least 15 million yuan of losses.

“My heart truly hurt. We’d never thought of suffering from such a severe natural disaster,” said 41-year-old Wu Chunlei, standing amidst soaked paper packages in his factory.

“This is all I’ve worked for over the last decade.”

He said the flood did more damage than the pandemic in the last three years.

“I don’t know how to face this.”

Gao Dong, 53, who has been staying at a disaster relief centre, despaired at the thought of rebuilding his home, now filled with a foot of mud.

“After so many years of hard work, it’s heartbreaking. Our food is all gone, and we can’t imagine how we’ll be able to make ends meet.”

He makes less than 200 yuan a day as a part-time worker and has not been able to visit his corn farmlands, which earn him a couple of thousands of yuan a year, saying it is probably all gone.

“Rebuild home, with what? If the government doesn’t help, what can we use to rebuild our home?” Gao said, tearing up.

($1 = 7.1861 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(This story has been corrected to fix a resident’s name in paragraph 3)

(Reporting by Tingshu Wang and Josh Arslan, writing by Albee Zhang; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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