Torrential downpours and flooding have killed at least 15 people and four others remain missing in Chongqing, southwest China, state-run news agency Xinhua reported Wednesday, citing local authorities.
The deaths have been recorded since Monday as heavy rains have battered southwest China, prompting four counties in Chongqing to issue the highest level red alert warnings.
Videos from the sprawling megacity show residents being rescued, while authorities work to clear streets of floodwater.
China’s Ministry of Emergency Management also raised its emergency levels.
Neighboring Sichuan province has also been hard hit, with more than 460,000 residents affected by the heavy rain – but no casualties reported so far, according to the provincial government. More than 85,000 Sichuan residents have been displaced, state-run broadcaster CCTV reported Tuesday.
At least 400 emergency teams have been dispatched to help rescue and relief operations in the area, according to state media.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping has ordered authorities to “give top priority” to keeping residents safe and minimizing losses, according to Xinhua. He also told various government ministries, including flood control and emergency management authorities, to coordinate the response effort.
This summer has already seen heavy rain, with four people killed and three missing in Sichuan last week after landslides triggered by rainstorms and flash floods, Xinhua reported.
And videos emerged on Monday of the dramatic rescue of a couple trapped on their car roof after a riverbed flooded in central Henan province. Rescue workers used a drone to deliver rope and life jackets to the couple, who huddled on their car amid rushing brown water before being “dragged” to the river bank by a crane, according to CCTV.
The floods come as other parts of China battle intense heat waves in yet more examples of extreme and unpredictable weather that experts say is a sign of the climate crisis’ impact.
Earlier this week, the country registered the highest number of hot days over six months since records began, according to authorities.
China has already experienced four regional heat waves so far this summer, which arrived earlier and have been more widespread and extreme than in previous years, according to the National Climate Center.
Northern China, a heavily populated region with hundreds of millions of residents, has been particularly hard hit, with more heat waves expected in coming weeks.