Hundreds of dogs and several cats were saved by animal activists during the recent devastating floods in China, according to Humane Society International (HSI).
The global animal welfare organization praised local activists as “heroes” for their efforts to save stricken animals in Beijing and the surrounding Hebei province, which were severely affected by flooding in late July and early August.
The flooding was sparked by Typhoon Doksuri, which brought heavy rainfall to parts of the Philippines, Taiwan, China and Vietnam, causing extensive damage to homes, crops, livestock and infrastructure.
Dozens of people have been killed in the floods and several more are still missing. But in addition to the human tragedy, the floods have taken a toll on animals in the region.
Dozens of animal shelters packed with dogs and cats were submerged in the floods. Many animals drowned, while others escaped, taking refuge on nearby roofs and trees where they became stranded.
HSI immediately released emergency funds to enable its local partners Vshine and the Capital Animal Welfare Association (CAWA) to deploy rescue teams to two hard-hit locations.
Rescuers from Vshine and CAWA first deployed to the Fangshan district in southwest Beijing from July 29 to 31, HSI spokesperson Wendy Higgins told Newsweek. They then deployed to Hebei province’s Zhuozhou County, which is southwest of Beijing, from August 3 to 6.
When rescuers arrived, equipped with canoes, cages and catch poles, they found hungry, thirsty and desperate animals.
Vshine and CAWA said they rescued 269 dogs and 11 cats in the two areas, Higgins said.
“Our Chinese partners are true heroes for animals. The dogs and cats who Vshine/CAWA found huddled together on the shelter roofs had been through a terrifying ordeal,” Higgins said in a press release. “Thanks to the bravery and selflessness of our Chinese partners, who dropped everything to come to their rescue, these animals are now safe. But it could have ended so differently.”
Activists rescued 77 dogs from the roofs of shelters in Zhuozhou and 44 from submerged streets and fields. They could have been pets, strays or shelter animals. Another 148 dogs were rescued from the Beijing area.
Based on information from local groups and their own observations, Vshine and CAWA estimated that around 400 dogs and 300 cats died in numerous local shelters that had been submerged in both locations.
But these numbers likely do not represent the full picture of how many shelter dogs and cats were killed in the floods. In the Beijing disaster area alone, more than a dozen shelters were packed with almost 3,000 dogs.
“Our rescue team deployed to Dong Nan Lu Village on the outskirts of south Beijing and the situation there was terrible,” Zhiyang Huang, a team leader with CAWA and Vshine, said in a statement. “We found dogs who had clambered on the roof of submerged buildings, they were saturated and frightened and very pleased to see us.”
Zhiyang went on: “Our group of rescuers helped save 148 dogs from drowning in this area alone, but there were more than a dozen shelters packed with animals in this disaster area with almost 3,000 dogs so we dread to think of the fate of those poor animals.”
Most of the animals that the activists rescued have been accepted into two temporary shelters set up in the affected areas. But Vshine members transported seven dogs and two cats to the city of Dalian to receive further care at its HSI-supported veterinary facility.
“Shelters in China can house hundreds of dogs and cats each so once they are breached by floodwater, you can imagine the numbers of animals in danger,” Gaia Bonini, who is involved with international disaster response at HSI, said in a statement.
“Our Chinese partner groups faced a very challenging situation but they managed to save lives. It’s going to take a lot of work to repair these damaged shelters and rebuild capacity,” Bonini said.
Higgins told Newsweek that floodwaters in the two hard-hit areas have now subsided, but “sadly” lots of deceased animals were recovered in the process. “The big job now will be reconstruction and recovery for the shelters that were submerged,” she said.