20230802 beijing floods
Residents wade through floodwaters following heavy rainfall in Zhuozhou, Hebei province, China. Image Credit: Reuters

China on Wednesday doubled down on rescue efforts in Zhuozhou, a flooded city of over 600,000 residents southwest of Beijing, as the remnants of Typhoon Doksuri continued to wreak havoc on swathes of the city twice the size of Paris.

Zhuozhou is in Hebei province, which has borne the brunt of the worst storms to hit northern China in over a decade. At least 20 people were killed in the flooded region and more than 134,000 displaced, with provincial authorities declaring a state of emergency, as rainfall has averaged 355 mm (14 inches) since Saturday, the heaviest since at least July 2012.

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At the confluence of several rivers, Zhuozhou is one of the hardest hit cities in Hebei as floodwaters migrated downstream, according to state media, waterlogging residential areas more than twice the size of the French capital, and affecting nearly 650 hectares of agricultural land.

The local public security bureau said on Tuesday the city faced water shortages and a partial power outage, adding that it was in urgent need of boats, rafts, life jackets and emergency supply for rescue work. Zhuozhou borders Beijing, which was inundated with the most rainfall in 140 years between Saturday and early Wednesday, official data showed.

Residents said waters rose as high as four metres (13 ft).

Residents forced to leave their homes were temporarily resettled in high-rise buildings, but lacked access to electricity and water, local media reported.

Many Zhuozhou residents took to social media to complain about how long rescue and recovery efforts were taking. "We are taking on the flood water discharge from Beijing, so they should provide us with rescue and equipment, but there has been nothing," a netizen vented on China's popular microblog Weibo.

Another Weibo user said they were worried about the safety of elderly family members, and pleaded for rescuers to help move immobile seniors to the roof while awaiting evacuation.

A satellite image taken on Tuesday showed Zhuozhou surrounded by floodwaters on three sides. The Global Times newspaper reported that a large amount of water was flowing from Beijing into three rivers around Zhuozhou.

Floods have also hit warehouses in the city, a logistics hub. Hebei authorities said they had opened another flood diversion area in Yongding River on Wednesday to help ease the flooding.

BooksChina.com, an online bookstore, said on its WeChat account on Tuesday night their staff were waiting for rescue workers on the fourth floor of their flooded warehouse where over four million books were stored.

Nearly 100 employees were trapped without food and water, and a toxic gas leaking from a neighbouring tape factory complicated rescue efforts, local media reported.