At least 25 dead as torrential rains flood Chinese city, trapping commuters in chest-high water on train


At least 25 people, including a dozen passengers trapped in a flooded subway, have died after torrential rains flooded central China, crippling several cities and causing millions of dollars in damage.

As the river dikes were broken in record-breaking downpours in Henan province, President Xi Jinping called the situation “extremely serious” with flood control measures entering a “critical stage” , state media reported on Wednesday.

About 200,000 residents were evacuated to Zhengzhou, local government officials said, as soldiers led the rescue efforts in the city of more than 10 million people, which has seen the equivalent of a year of average rain poured into it in just three days.

Rainfall in the region has been the most abundant since records began 60 years ago, as scientists say climate change is making flooding worse around the world, alongside other growing weather conditions. more extreme.

People wade through flood waters along a street following heavy rains in Zhengzhou, central China’s Henan Province, July 20, 2021.

STR / AFP / Getty

Thunderstorms swamped the Zhengzhou metro on Tuesday evening, killing 12 people and injuring five, while city officials said hundreds of people were rescued from the metro.

Tearing of nerves images shared on social networks showed shocked passengers struggling with chest-high water inside a train car. Rescuers opened the roof of the bus to bring people to safety, local media reported.

An image from a video posted to China’s Twitter-like social media platform Weibo shows passengers on a subway train in the central city of Zhengzhou in China, trapped in flood waters up to to the chest amid widespread flooding after torrential rains on July 20, 2021.

Others showed spectacular rescues of pedestrians in Zhengzhou from torrents gushing through the streets.

Outside a tunnel, AFP saw dozens of abandoned cars lined up, some half submerged in water.

At least four people were killed in the nearby town of Gongyi where houses and walls collapsed, the state-run Xinhua news agency said, adding that the rains had caused multiple landslides.

Relatives outside Zhengzhou requested information from Weibo in China as communications with the city went down.

Li Rongguang, a woman in her 60s, told AFP she came to Zhengzhou to see a doctor but was stranded when the trains were stopped due to the storm. .

She said she struggled to contact relatives or make mobile payments due to a weak phone signal.

“I want to get home as quickly as possible,” she told AFP, sitting by the side of the road. “I can’t take this anymore.”

Bad and worse and worse

Authorities have issued the highest level of alert for Henan Province as flooding continues to hit the region, with landslides blocking many roads, villages evacuated, tourist sites closed and large areas left behind. without communication.

The cultural heritage body has warned that some key heritage sites have suffered water damage, including the Shaolin Temple – a famous monastery and martial arts school – and the Longmen Caves, a Unesco heritage of Buddhist stone sculptures dating from the 5th century.

Henan is the cradle of traditional Chinese martial arts and is home to many kung fu academies.

A statement said “key protected cultural relics have suffered water damage to varying degrees” but said they were now safe, without providing specific details.

As the scale of the disaster continued to expand and the damage amounted to tens of millions of dollars, the Chinese military said it had averted the collapse of the Yihetan Dam, about an hour outside of the city. from Zhengzhou.

Torrential rains hit Henan
Police evacuate traffic in flood waters near Zhengzhou Station on July 20, 2021 in Zhengzhou, China’s Henan Province.

Zhu Zhe / VCG / Getty

On Wednesday morning, the People’s Liberation Army said blasting operations had been carried out at the dam and troops had “successfully opened a new flood diversion opening.”

These measures meant that the water level had dropped and that “the danger was effectively controlled”.

Thousands of soldiers have been deployed to other nearby rivers to reinforce the dikes with sandbags as floods spread through Henan and warnings have been issued for more dam ruptures nearby.

“Some reservoirs have seen their dams burst (…) causing serious injuries, loss of life and material damage,” Xi Jinping said, according to state broadcaster CCTV. “We have already entered the critical phase of flood control, leaders and cadres from all walks of life must … take the lead in command, quickly organize flood protection forces and disaster relief . “

Annual flooding during the rainy season in China causes chaos and destroys roads, crops and homes.

An aerial photo taken on July 15, 2020 shows the Sanmenxia Water Control Project, after being subjected to flood control measures, in central China’s Henen Province.

Xinhua / Li An / Getty

But the threat has worsened over the decades, in part due to the widespread construction of dams and dikes that cut off connections between the river and adjacent lakes and disrupted floodplains that had helped absorb the surge. summer.

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