The floods ravaging southern China this summer could not have come at a worse time for Sichuan. The rains have been heavy across the south—from Guangdong across Guangxi to Yunnan—but they have also hit hard in Sichuan near the epicenter of the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake.
Some of Sichuan's most famous tourist areas—like Jiuzhaigou and Dujiangyan—are among the hardest hit, effectively halting the flow of tourism money needed to help these areas with post-quake reconstruction. (Aside from spending your tourist renminbi in the region, if you're looking to help you you can donate to flood relief—Give2Asia's China Flood Relief Fund is a good place to start).
The northern Sichuan areas of Aba, Ganzi and Ya'an are experiencing heavy rains, as is the mountainous southern region of Liangshan—site of the annual Yi Torch Festival every August. The road to Jiuzhaigou, the famously turquoise valley in Aba, is out and the only way to get in is by plane. The valley usually sees 80,000 visitors a day during the summer months, but that number has been reduced dramatically by the rains and the fear of landslides.
This year's Torch festival in Xichang, capital of Liangshan Prefecture, went off without a major hitch, but travelers were unable to venture deeper into the Yi minority regions of this prefecture, including the famous Lugu Lake area that straddles the Sichuan-Yunnan border, due to the heavy rains. In response, provincial authorities declared a province-wide Level 3 emergency.
As we reported earlier in July, many tourist spots are dank and dreary this summer. Flood damage, coupled with a Guangyuan—all victims of the 2008 earthquake—with Mianzhu experiencing deep waters in the city center that brought life there to a halt. GoChengdoo has some dramatic and depressing links to photos of the damage—including the loss of a 200 year old bridge in Huayang, a small town south of Chengdu.
The real tragedy here is that the poor, underdeveloped regions of south China are suffering the most. Cities like Chengdu, Kunming and Nanning are able to survive heavy rains and carry on with business, while smaller towns and the roads leading to them are washed away in a flow of mud, rock and rain.
The rains are expected to let up during the fall months and even if they don't, the rainy season in Sichuan and farther north ends around October. That may be good news for anyone planning travel in China's southwest this fall, though it's cold comfort to the victims of quakes and floods. We'll keep you posted as time goes on.