China ‘tops world’ in disaster-driven home exodus in 2016
China led the world in the number of people driven out of their homes by disasters last year, according to an international monitoring group.
In a report released on Monday, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre of the Norwegian Refugee Council said 7.4 million people were displaced by disasters in China in 2016, followed by 5.9 million in the Philippines, 2.4 million in India and 1.2 million in Indonesia.
China’s total for last year was double the figure for 2015, according to the centre’s website.
The report said these displacements were expected to rise as the impact of climate change became more acute.
In total, more than 31 million people were displaced in their own countries by conflict, violence and disasters in 2016, the centre said.
Disasters displaced three times more people than conflicts, and most of the 24 million disaster-caused displacements were the result of sudden-onset weather hazards such as floods, storms, and wildfires.
Jiang Yansheng, deputy chief engineer of Hubei’s flood control office, said displacement was not clearly defined and he questioned the total for China.
Hubei, on the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, was one of the regions worst hit by summer floods last year.
“In Hubei, like other mainland areas, rural residents affected by floods won’t leave their hometowns,” Jiang said.
“Instead, when the floods approach, village authorities will inform residents to evacuate their homes. They will then stay at temporary shelters in town centres for a few days. When the floods ebb, villagers return to their homes.”
Jiang said affected villagers were given a daily allowance of over 100 yuan (US$14.5) when they had to leave their homes and were also compensated for property losses due to flooding.
“I think internal displacement only happens in China when reservoirs are going to be built,” he said.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs could not be reached for comment on Monday.
According to the ministry, disasters affected about 190 million people across the country last year and inflicted about 503 billion yuan in direct economic losses, China News Service reported.
In all, 1,432 people died in disasters on the mainland last year, with another 274 missing.