Heavy rains and massive flooding have hit China’s Henan Province killing 12 people. At least 12 people have been killed in the provincial capital, Zhengzhou, where more than 457mm (18in) fell in the 24 hours to 5 pm on Tuesday, Bloomberg reported. The total equates to more than 60% of the city’s annual average rainfall and included more than 200mm in one hour.
According to reports, about 100,000 people have been moved to shelters, state media Xinhua reported on Wednesday, citing the local government. The rainfall flooded the city’s subway system, collapsed roads, and prompted the suspension of inbound flights.
Videos of the severity of the flooding went viral on social media, with hundreds of cars floating down main streets, and crowds of people forming human chains to rescue each other from roads and flooded buildings.
In the subway system where many of the confirmed deaths are thought to have occurred, waist-high water gushed through the tunnels, submerging platforms and filling carriages. Other videos showed commuters trapped inside carriages holding on to handrails with water up to their chests. At least five lifeless bodies were visible in one clip, filmed at an unidentified Zhengzhou station, the reports stated.
The death toll was expected to rise, with numerous social media posts by loved ones of people missing. In the nearby city of GongYi, at least one person was reportedly killed and two reported missing.
Zhengzhou’s flood control headquarters said that water storage at the Guojiazui reservoir was at “major risk” of dam failure and the local government was ordering evacuations.
In the city of Luoyang, local authorities said the Yihetan dam “could collapse at any time”.
A division of China’s military had been sent to the site to fight the floods and carry out rescues, authorities added.
The heavy rain across Henan began on July 17. On Tuesday, weather agencies issued the highest warning level for the province, and Chinese weather forecasts expected further severe downpours.
From Saturday to Tuesday, 3,535 weather stations in Henan, one of China’s most populous provinces with 94 million people, reported rainfall exceeding 5cm. Among the stations 1,614 registered levels above 10cm and 151 above 25cm, the authorities said.
Footage on China’s social media showed the world-renowned Shaolin Temple, known for martial arts, as well as other cultural sites, badly affected. Hundreds of trapped residents in Henan called for help online as flooding cut electricity to their homes.
Floods are common in China’s rainy season, but their impact has worsened over the decades, due in part to China’s rapid urbanization and the global climate crisis.
Extreme weather events have occurred in many parts of China this summer. Hundreds of thousands of residents in Sichuan province had to be relocated this month due to floods and landslides.
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