Beijing, Aug 4 — People living in cave-like homes in arid northwest China’s Loess plateau had never considered abandoning their dwellings until recently, when continuous downpour wreaked havoc across the region.
Rainstorms battered the city of Yan’an in Shaanxi province and triggered landslides and floods, leaving 42 people dead and over 130 others injured by the end of July, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.
About 95,000 cave houses have been destroyed in the city over the past month, leaving 100,000 people homeless.
About 30 million people live in cave dwellings on the Loess plateau.
The plateau’s climate is typically quite arid, but in recent weeks, it has experienced rainfall up to five times higher than that seen in previous years.
Yuan Xiaoli, a resident of Shangyi, said he never thought that the cave houses he lived in for over 20 years would be destroyed by the storms.
“We have been living in cave houses for generations and never thought they would collapse. Elderly people living in the village have never seen such heavy rain,” Yuan said.
“It is easy to build a cave house, as the construction materials that are required to build one can easily be found,” said Wang Jun, professor at the Xi’an University of Architecture and Technology.
The municipal government hopes to relocate cave house residents to safer places over the next five to eight years, particularly those living in areas vulnerable to landslides.
About 250,000 Yan’an residents still live in cave houses.
Li Dongxia, a resident of Yichuan county which was hit hard by the downpours, said she was reluctant to leave her home, but was ultimately forced to after it became uninhabitable due to the rains.