Heavy rains threaten homes, crops across Hunan

JISHOU, HUNAN — Fenghuang has been hit the hardest, maybe, but heavy rains are affecting all of Hunan. Xinhua reports more than 500 homes have been washed away by flood waters, and more than 1.15 million people are affected by flooding. Many rivers and Dongting Lake in northeast Hunan are at least 1 meter (3 feet) above flood stage. In Fenghuang, local officials shut off power at 8 this morning as a safety precaution and four hours earlier, public safety officers were moving people out of threatened areas. Close to 110,000 residents and tourists have been evacuated to higher ground, as water levels of the Tuo River have exceeded 1.5 meters (4.5 feet) over normal. The wooden Fengyu Bridge, which was built in 2008, has been washed away by the Tuo flood waters and the stone Hong Bridge has sustained heavy water damage. Both are popular tourist attractions. This page shows Fengyu Bridge in the process of being washed out, as well as other photos tweeted from Fenghuang today. Across Hunan, officials the rains have ruined close to 54,100 hectares of farmland and will result in economic losses of 940 million yuan ($150 million). We’re expecting at least two more ...

Disaster movie weekend

CHANGSHA, CHINA — Unlike my last trip to the vicinity of Changsha, this one was not fraught with peril. The disasters were limited to the movies I watched. Our bus screened two mega-disaster movies, the American 2012 and the Thai copycat version 2022: The Great Tsunami. (It goes without saying both were pirated copies.) And, before I fell asleep in my hotel Saturday night, I watched that classic star-studded extravaganza, The Towering Inferno, with dialogue dubbed into Chinese, of course. Disaster movies are just really stupid, you know? It makes no difference when or where they are made. They’re just mindless entertainment. Let’s start with Roland Emmerich’s 2012. As soon as heard the Important Scientist announce ominously that a massive solar flare had sent a storm of neutrinos toward Earth, and these neutrinos for the first time ever (Now with new cleaning power!) were interacting with matter, I knew the rest of the movie would be, scientifically, a stinker. I was not disappointed. Physics mini-lesson: Yes, the Sun produces neutrinos. Lots of neutrinos. They are a product of nuclear fusion, the gift that keeps on giving us heat and light from that yellow ball in the sky. The sun has ...
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