The worst floods in decades bring fears of a black swan event

Domestic News

The worst seasonal deluges in years have people worried in China.

an aerial photo of the three gorges dam in china discharging water, with clouds above
Aerial view of Three Gorges Dam discharging water in Yichang city, south China's Hubei province, 27 July 2020. Photo from Oriental Image via Reuters.

“The flood control and flood fighting situation is grim,” China’s Ministry of Water Resources said in a July 26 statement (in Chinese), warning that it could get much worse.

Millions have been evacuated over the past month as torrential rains have filled rivers and dams in “27 of the country’s 31 provinces, affecting more than 37 million people and leaving 141 dead or missing.” This includes the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River: Today, authorities discharged floodwater from the dam after the third flood of the year in the Yangtze River’s upper reaches when the Three Gorges Dam “saw an inflow of 50,000 cubic meters per second” at 2 p.m. local time.

There are fears of a “black swan” disaster, not only at the Three Gorges Dam, but also at the thousands of small, aging dams around the country. “I’ve never seen such flooding,” said one villager, who in 1965 helped build a dam which collapsed last month near Yangshuo.

Update: There has been no serious evidence of a problem at the Three Gorges, but the internet is rife with rumors that the dam might fail.

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