A Perfect Storm: Kunming’s downtown floods after record rainfall, killing two

beijing lu

48 hours of continuously hard rain pounded Kunming’s downtown area late last week dropping more than 40 cm of water and flooding the city’s north and central business districts.  Two city residents were killed and one still remains missing.  Tens of thousands of Kunmingers woke up on Friday morning to find their cars submerged, and the inventories of hundreds of downtown shops were ruined.  Four kilometers of Beijing Road, the city’s main north-south artery were shut down, crippling city traffic through Sunday.

Late Thursday night, the remnants of the easterly moving Typhoon Soulik clashed with the westerly wet seasonal monsoons directly above the city’s center and the rain did not let up until early Sunday morning.  Kunming, which has been in a state of constant dry season drought for the past five years, had unseasonably low levels of rain this summer prior to the two day storm.  The low levels likely prompted city officials to continue maintenance on the Panlong river, a canal that runs parallel to Beijing Road and serves as the city’s main drainage channel.  The maintenance project cut off more than half of the canal’s waterway in key segments and when the rains hit, the canal spilled over into the city streets.  Subway construction underneath Beijing Road likely blocked key drainage channels further exacerbating the situation.  By Saturday, the city’s main flood manager declared a total failure of Kunming’s flood prevention system.

Photos below show the extent of the flood’s damage.


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The intersection of Beijing Road and Third Ring.  Note the subway construction equipment corralling the intersection.

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Kayakers on the 2nd ring road instantly became a social media hit.



The photo above shows the record rainfall spilling over the top of the elevated north 2nd ring road.

flood map

The flood zone is highlighted in blue.


train station

Kunming’s north train station, the terminus of the Kunming-Hanoi narrow gauge railway built by French colonials 100 years ago is partially underwater.  A 15 meter deep tunnel running under the station is entirely flooded.

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train station aosidi

panlong construction

Panlong river maintenance.    Only half of the river’s channel was open for flow on long lengths of the river in the city’s north. Photo taken March 2013.


car circle

Kunming has the highest car ownership per capita of all Chinese cities.  How will car owners react to the failure of the city’s flood prevention system?

cars flood 3 photo kayak3couple swimmers photo2 photo3

Baiyun Road is entirely submerged.  Kunmingers forked over higher real estate rates to get a view of the Panlong river.  Many netizens on China’s social media sites commented that the luxury home owners here didn’t expect to get an occasional lake view.

car photo cartoon

The caption says “A failed explorer.”




Filed under China, Current Events, Uncategorized, water, Yunnan Province

3 Responses to A Perfect Storm: Kunming’s downtown floods after record rainfall, killing two

  1. Philippe

    I like the article but I have a couple of remarks:

    Apparently the picture from the elevated ring road was not taken in Kunming. Google finds the same picture for different dates and different cities:

    And I don’t think it rained that long. I was in Kunming center and it rained from about midnight on Thursday night but it stopped raining on Friday afternoon.

  2. A Perfect Storm: Kunming’s downtown floods after record rainfall, killing two | East by Southeast, aporte valioso. Me encanta vuestra web. via verde taragona

  3. East by Southeast

    Thanks – We’ll check out the photo verification. The rain didn’t let up at my house in the north part of town till Sunday morning – that’s when many Kunmingers were hitting the Weixin of photos of the sun coming out to dry up the rain…

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