At least 12 people have been killed in Zhengzhou, the capital of the province, according to the Chinese meteorological observatory, where more than 20 centimeters of rain fell in an hour on Tuesday.
All bodies found have been removed from the city’s metro system, provincial authorities said.
More than 100,000 people have been evacuated from Zhengzhou, a city of 12.6 million on the banks of the Yellow River, with thousands of emergency services deployed to aid in the effort, state media reported.
And in the nearby town of Gongyi, at least four people are said to have died as floods swept through residential areas and forced more than 20,000 people to evacuate their homes.
Speaking about the flooding on Wednesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping described the situation as “very serious” and ordered authorities to “give priority to the safety of people’s lives and property,” the state news agency Xinhua reported.
While flooding is an annual occurrence in parts of China during the summer months, scientists and officials have recently alarmed record rains, raising the question of the country’s readiness to deal with more extreme and unpredictable weather exacerbated by climate change.
‘I can’t talk anymore, please help’
footage broadcast by Xinhua
and widely shared online showed passengers in Zhengzhou trapped in a flooded subway, tightly packed as the water rises. Outside the window, dark floodwaters rip along the subway tracks.
Many of the inmates posted calls for help on social media, according to screenshots and statements circulating online from the Henan Fire Department.
“The water in the carriage has reached chest height! I can’t speak anymore, please help!” wrote a woman who went by the name Xiaopei.
Minutes later, she posted another comment: “If rescue doesn’t come in 20 minutes, hundreds of us will lose our lives in Zhengzhou subway.” The fire service later confirmed that Xiaopei had been rescued.
The city’s metro system, which includes seven lines and 153 stations, has halted all operations following the incident, provincial authorities said.
Other videos showed residents on the streets, water up to their hips, working desperately to pull people trapped in an underground shopping center out with ropes. Others showed people making a human chain to avoid being swept up by the current as they struggled through flowing water.
The heavy rainfall also caused power outages in the city. A hospital, with nearly 10,000 patients, suffered a complete blackout on Tuesday, with photos posted to social media showing the first floor submerged in water.
On Weibo, the heavily censored version of Twitter in China, a user said the power outage had disabled the ventilators in the intensive care unit of Zhengzhou University’s First Affiliated Hospital. She said her father had to rely on medical personnel to manually pump oxygen into his lungs, and pleaded with authorities to restore electricity to the facility.
The People’s Daily later confirmed the hospital blackout, where it said more than 600 critically ill patients had to be transferred. Power was restored to the IC unit on Wednesday morning, the newspaper said.
According to state broadcaster CGTN, more than 6,000 firefighters and nearly 2,000 members of the police and Chinese military were deployed to disaster areas. Footage from the ground shows soldiers and rescue teams rescuing residents on rafts and cleaning up fallen power lines.
A report released last week by Greenpeace warned that major metropolitan regions around Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou-Shenzhen were threatened by extreme heat and rainfall. Beijing has seen the fastest increase in average temperature of 0.32 degrees Celsius every 10 years. Guanzhou-Shenzhen has experienced 98 heat waves since 1961, the most in the past two decades.
The report also said that if global greenhouse gas emissions peak around 2040, some parts of China, such as Shanghai, would experience a more than 25% increase in extreme rainfall — while other areas, such as northwestern Guangzhou-Shenzhen, would experience more drought. would see.
Although the rains have subsided since then, the problems are likely to persist, as dozens of dams and reservoirs have exceeded warning levels.
There were conflicting reports about the status of the Guojiazui Dam near Zhengzhou, with CGTN initially announcing that it collapsed at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, before later appearing to backtrack on reporting. A statement from the Ministry of Emergency Relief also said the dam had broken, according to a screenshot quoted by the state-run China Daily. However, that rule has since been removed.
Xinhua reported Wednesday afternoon that “much of the dam’s downstream slope has crumbled, but the dam itself has not collapsed.”
In the city of Luoyang west of Zhengzhou, Chinese military personnel rushed Tuesday night to blow up a dam and divert the flooding at the request of provincial authorities. Heavy rain had caused a 20-meter rupture in the dam, which “could collapse at any time” according to a statement by the Central Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army.