At least 25 people have died in China’s flood-ravaged central province of Henan, including a dozen on a subway line in Zhengzhou, and more rain is forecast for the region.
Around 100,000 people have been evacuated from Zhengzhou, a major industrial and transportation hub where rail and road connections have been disrupted. Dams and reservoirs have reached critical levels, and thousands of troops are assisting in the province’s rescue efforts.
Twelve people died and more than 500 were pulled to safety after a subway tunnel flooded, state media reported, while social media images showed train commuters immersed in chest-deep waters in the dark and one station reduced to a large brown pool.
“The water reached my chest,” a survivor wrote on social media. “I was really scared, but the most terrifying thing was not the water, but the diminishing air supply in the carriage.”
The rain halted bus services in the city of 12 million people about 650 km (400 miles) southwest of Beijing, said a resident surnamed Guo, who had to spend the night at his office.
“That’s why many people took the subway, and the tragedy happened,” Guo told Reuters.
At least 25 people have died in the torrential rains that have lashed the province since last weekend, with seven missing, officials told a news conference on Wednesday.
Media said the dead included four residents of the city of Gongyi, located on the banks of the Yellow River like Zhengzhou, following the widespread collapse of homes and structures because of the rains.
More rain is expected in Henan over the next three days, and the People’s Liberation Army has dispatched over 5,700 soldiers and personnel to assist with search and rescue efforts.
Zhengzhou received 617.1 mm (24.3 inches) of rain from Saturday to Tuesday, nearly the annual average of 640.8 mm (25.2 inches).
The three days of rain matched a level only seen “once in a thousand years,” according to the Zhengzhou weather bureau.
Rainfall in China, like recent heatwaves in the United States and Canada, and extreme flooding in Western Europe, was almost certainly caused by global warming, scientists told Reuters.
“Such extreme weather events will likely become more frequent in the future,” said Johnny Chan, a professor of atmospheric science at City University of Hong Kong.
“What is needed is for governments to develop strategies to adapt to such changes,” he added, referring to authorities at city, province and national levels.
‘FLOOD PREVENTION DIFFICULT’
During heavy rain on July 20, 2021, a traffic police officer uses a rope to guide residents across a flooded road in Zhengzhou, Henan province, China. REUTERS/China Daily
Many train services were halted throughout Henan, a logistics hub with a population of around 100 million people. Highways have also been closed, and flights have been rescheduled or cancelled.
Food and water supplies had run out for hundreds of passengers stranded on a train that had stopped just outside the city limits of Zhengzhou two days earlier, according to media reports on Wednesday.
Roads in a dozen province cities were severely flooded.
“Flood prevention efforts have become very difficult,” President Xi Jinping said in a statement broadcast by state television.
Dozens of reservoirs and dams breached danger levels.
Local authorities said the rainfall had caused a 20-metre breach in the Yihetan dam in the city of Luoyang west of Zhengzhou, and that the dam could collapse at any time.
In Zhengzhou itself, where about 100,000 people have been evacuated, the Guojiazui reservoir had been breached but there was no dam failure yet.
Chinese companies, insurers, and a state-owned bank said they had offered 1.935 billion yuan ($299 million) in donations and emergency aid to local governments in Henan.
SCHOOLS AND HOSPITAL ARE CUT OFF
Foxconn (2317.TW), which operates a plant in Zhengzhou that assembles iPhones for Apple (AAPL.O), said there was no direct impact.
SAIC Motor (600104.SS), China’s largest automaker, warned of a short-term impact on logistics at its plant there, while Nissan (7201.T) said production had been halted.
Schools and hospitals were marooned and people caught in the floods flocked to shelter in libraries, cinemas and museums.
“We’ve up to 200 people of all ages seeking temporary shelter,” said a staffer surnamed Wang at the Zhengzhou Science and Technology Museum.
“We’ve prepared instant noodles and hot water for them. They spent the night in a large conference room.”
After the city’s largest hospital, the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou, lost all power, officials raced to find transportation for 600 critically ill patients.
The neighbouring province of Hebei issued a storm warning for some cities, including its capital, Shijiazhuang, warning of moderate to heavy rain beginning Wednesday.