The province's western cities of Jiuquan and Zhangye typically receive little rainfall, relying on water from the icecap of the nearby Qilian Mountain. Located in a basin nearby the desert, Dunhuang is a city affiliated to Jiuquan.
Heavy rains have battered Gansu Province since June 15. In Dunhuang, the rain-triggered floods submerged railways, destroyed a major bridge and hampered transportation and supplies of electricity.
Dunhuang is a renowned tourist city known for the Mogao Grottoes, or the Ancient Caves of 1,000 Buddhas, which became China's first UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.