Women to the fore in battle against floods

Li Xiumei puts on a bamboo hat and a raincoat, hops on her motorcycle, and heads towards the embankment to help fight floods.

Li Xiumei puts on a bamboo hat and a raincoat, hops on her motorcycle, and heads towards the embankment to help fight floods.

Li, 50, is a resident of Jiangxinzhou Township in Jiujiang City, east China’s Jiangxi Province. Jiangxinzhou lies on a large sandbank in the Yangtze River. It is the registered home of about 42,000 people, but many have left for jobs in big cities, leaving behind the elderly, women, and children.

China has entered its rainy season. Since June, continuous downpours have lashed large parts of southern China, and the waters of many rivers have exceeded warning levels.

The northern part of Jiangxi has experienced heavy downpours since July 6, with water rising significantly in local rivers and lakes. Around the 127-square-kilometer Jiangxinzhou, water rose to 22.81 meters on July 12, posing a grave risk to the settlement.

Facing a lack of manpower and devastating summer floods, many left-behind women in Jiangxinzhou, like Li, are joining soldiers to fight floods on the frontline, providing more power in the battle against the floods.

According to the local women’s federation, Jiangxinzhou currently has about 3,000 women residents.

“Some women have come to patrol the banks, and some cook food for the people fighting on the frontline,” she said. “We do what we can to help contain the floods.”

Li has been fighting the floods for a week. She comes to the embankment on her motorcycle, a half-an-hour ride from her house in the township center. “I am mainly in charge of carrying the sandbags,” she said. “I work 12 hours a day, and then take some rest. We take turns to patrol the embankment.”

Li is a farmer. On regular days, she attends to her grandchildren at home and toils in the fields. Years of farming have given her a strong physique, so carrying sandbags is not a problem for her.

“I used to grow cotton, but now cotton is not profitable anymore. I have now grown about a hectare of corn.”

But in recent days, the heavy rains have inundated her cornfields. “I only managed to save some corn,” Li said.

Besides carrying sandbags, she also fills the bags with sand, and patrols the embankment to see if there is any leakage. “I call the authorities if I find any leaks,” she said. “It is very important, because any leakage could cause the embankment to crash.”

Li also works at night. She patrols the embankment with a flashlight. “I am not scared, because many other people are also patrolling. But the mosquitoes and bugs are really annoying.”

In the past week, the most unforgettable moment came on the night of July 12, when the water from the Yangtze exceeded the warning mark.

“The water rose to 22.81 meters, and everywhere I went, it was water,” she said.

Li carried sandbags for the whole night to stop the water from flooding in.

“Everyone in the village came over to help,” she revealed. “I did not sleep at all.”

But Li said all the hard work was worth it.

“Fighting the floods and protecting our homeland is our responsibility,” she said.

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