Severe flooding in central China has killed at least 12 people trapped in a subway in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, according to state media. The floods have inundated much of the city and the surrounding area, killing 25 people and creating scenes of destruction that suggest the death toll could be much higher.
In Zhengzhou’s metro system, floodwaters pierced a retaining wall near an entrance to Line 5, which loops around the city center, China News reported. Water poured into the system between Shakou Road and Haitian Temple stations around 6 p.m. Tuesday.
The trapped passengers posted videos showing water rising to their chests or necks. In one video, water gushed out of the windows of the subway car. Other photographs and videos – some later apparently deleted by censors – showed several lifeless bodies on a subway platform at the Shakou Road stop.
“It’s like making a horror movie, my God”, we heard in one video, a man stuck in a subway car.
The deaths and destruction in and around Zhengzhou, a city of five million people along the Yellow River, certainly seems to add to the grim global toll that extreme weather has already taken this year. Researchers said climate change was behind the scorching heat in the Pacific Northwest, forest fires in Siberia and flooding in Germany and Belgium.
As a sign of the potential severity of the disaster, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has ordered the authorities to prioritize the safety of people, Xinhua, the state news agency, said in a report describing ” heavy casualties and material losses “. Xi called the flooding “very serious” and warned that some dams had been damaged even as rivers exceeded alert levels.
It was not immediately clear how many people had been trapped in the city’s metro, which began operating in 2013 and now has seven lines and 148 stations. State media said 500 people were evacuated and those trapped were put to safety.
The entire system remained closed on Wednesday morning.
Flooding is rife in China, and the Communist Party government has made strides in trying to tame the country’s unstable rivers and streams, but the risks appear to have grown more severe, overwhelming drainage systems and efforts to recover. rescue and testing leaders. Last summer, China battled weeks of flooding along the Yangtze River that killed hundreds and displaced millions more. The rains around this time filled the Three Gorges Dam to its highest level since it opened in 2003.
Extreme weather conditions
The government often goes to great lengths to manage information about disasters, limiting media coverage and censoring blogs and social media sites due to concerns over public dissatisfaction with prevention efforts and safety. Already, some people on Chinese chat platforms and social media sites have raised questions as to whether official media outlets in Zhengzhou and Henan Province initially downplayed the flooding of the metro system.
In the event of a disaster, the country’s state news media often focus on the efforts of rescuers, including the military, while downplaying the causes of disasters and their damage. A journalism professor, Zhan Jiang, posted a note on Weibo, the social media platform, complaining that a TV station in Henan Province continues to broadcast its regular programming instead of providing information on public safety.
In Zhengzhou, torrential rains started on Sunday and continued until Wednesday. It was the heaviest on record in the city, according to Chinese state television network CCTV.
At one point, the city saw nearly eight inches of rain in an hour. In one day, the region recorded roughly the annual average precipitation. More than 140,000 people had to be evacuated, according to reports.
The downpour flooded roads and railroads and disrupted operations at the airport, CCTV reported. A passenger train carrying 735 people has stopped near Zhengzhou for over 40 hours and ran out of food and water. Aerial photographs showed dozens of cars almost covered in muddy water, with the fate of their drivers and passengers unknown.
Videos circulating online showed cars and even people being blown away. At least one hospital, the first affiliated hospital of Zhengzhou University, was reportedly inundated with flood water, losing electricity and endangering patients being treated or monitored with electrical medical devices.
Flooding was also reported in several towns near Zhengzhou, where people posted appeals for help on WeChat and Weibo, two of the country’s largest social networks. In Gongyi, at least 20,000 people have been displaced by floodwaters that inundated dozens of homes and washed away roads, according to reports.
Claire Fu, Li you, Liu Yi and Albee zhang contributed research.