CHONGQING • Ms Lei Xia had evacuated long before the flood came on the afternoon of July 16. She avoided heavy property loss as well as she had also taken her furniture and electric appliances with her.
“At about 3 o’clock that afternoon, a sudden rolling sound of gongs signalled the coming flood, which bought time for us to relocate,” said Ms Lei, who owns a teahouse in the Kaizhou district of China’s south-western Chongqing municipality.
Torrential downpours have been battering the upper reaches of the Yangtze River where Kaizhou is located since July 15.
Local village and town staff have been taking turns to keep watch and patrol, most of them equipped with a gong in hand to beat at the first sign of danger.
Gongs, which have been used to raise alerts since ancient times in China, still play an important role in flood control in rural parts of the country, helping to save people’s lives and property.
“Aggressive floods sometimes come at midnight or during the wee hours, and people know it’s coming when they hear the beating of gongs,” said Mr Zou Pinsheng, a town chief in Kaizhou.
Besides the gongs, loudspeakers have also proven effective in issuing emergency warnings.
In the Tianba township of Chongqing’s Wuxi county, sudden flooding occurred when a river overflowed during heavy rain at around 3am on July 16.
“Get up and get out of the house! A flood is coming,” town employee Yuan Zhujun shouted through his loudspeaker as the water rushed towards the town.
People, stirred from their dreams by his cries, began to move.
More than 1,000 residents had been evacuated within three hours of the warning, and the water level in town had reached 2m, with no casualties reported.
“Compared with door-to-door warnings, using a loudspeaker can warn many more residents, thus buying time to evacuate,” Mr Yuan said.
Yet in vast rural areas across China, grassroots workers still need to travel by foot around villages and knock on doors at the drop of a hat, especially in areas mainly inhabited by the elderly who have poor hearing and cannot move fast.
Mr Fu Shanxiang, party secretary of the Xianglushan community in Chongqing’s Wanzhou district, was still going from door to door after most residents had been evacuated on the morning of July 16.
He found a rope, tied one end of it to a roadside tree and the other to his waist, jumped into the waist-deep torrent and waded towards an old man and a mother and daughter crying for help across the street on the second floor of a residential building.
The three stranded by the deluge were saved.
“Knocking on every door is a must. We’ll never let anyone get stuck at home, especially the elderly,” Mr Fu said.
Drones, intelligent patrol systems as well as other smart technologies have been used to support China’s flood control efforts, while ancient methods handed down for generations, like beating gongs, remain important in underdeveloped rural areas of the country.
“Flood control, after all, relies on people,” Mr Zou said. “These old ways will never become obsolete.”