Large parts of central and eastern China were reeling yesterday from the worst floods in decades as disruption mounted for key supply chains, including personal protective equipment (PPE) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city of Wuhan and the provinces of Anhui, Jiangxi and Zhejiang declared red alerts as heavy rain swelled rivers and lakes.
Wuhan, on the banks of the Yangtze River where COVID-19 emerged late last year, warned residents to take precautions as water levels approached their maximum guaranteed safety level.
The Three Gorges reservoir, which has been holding back more water to try to ease downstream flood risks, was more than 10m higher than its warning level, with inflows now at more than 50,000m3 a second.
The Poyang Lake in Jiangxi Province, which is formed from the overspill of the Yangtze, was 2.5m higher than its warning level. It has expanded by more than 2,000km2 during this flood season, and parts of the surrounding town have been inundated.
Further east, the Tai Lake near Shanghai has also declared a red alert after its water level rose to nearly 1m higher than its safe level.
The summer rainy season brings floods to China almost every year, but the impact of the disruption they cause is being felt further afield as Chinese goods become more important in supply chains of items such as PPE.
“It’s just creating another major roadblock here in terms of PPE getting into the United States — it is the worst of times for it to happen, but that’s what we’re dealing with right now,” said Michael Einhorn, president of Dealmed, a US medical supply distributor that sources disposable lab coats and other products from Wuhan and nearby regions.
“We cannot get product out for over a week, which is a very long time in our business,” Einhorn said, adding that the delays could last for up to another three weeks.
Economic activity in eastern and central China, especially in the construction industry, and demand for steel and cement continue to be hurt by the flooding, analysts say, suggesting some loss of momentum after a relatively strong recovery in the second quarter.
“We estimate recent floods in Yangtze River regions could lead to a gross drag of 0.4 to 0.8 percentage points on third-quarter GDP growth,” analysts at Morgan Stanley said in a note to clients.
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