Floods in China: Death toll rises in Henan as passengers recount horror of flooding on Zhengzhou metro
Torrential rains have hit Henan Province since last weekend, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and causing 1.22 billion yuan (about $ 190 million) in economic damage, officials said Thursday. Henan.
Home to 99 million people, Henan is one of the most populous and poorest provinces in China, with vast tracts of farmland and factories.
Zhengzhou, the provincial capital of 12 million people, is one of the worst-hit areas, with 12 dead after being trapped for hours on a flooded subway line. But many small towns and villages have also been severely damaged. With more rains forecast for the region, the death toll is expected to rise as rescue work continues.
In Gongyi, a county town west of Zhengzhou, at least four people were killed as floodwaters poured into the streets. Heavy rains also caused widespread house collapses and landslides, hampering rescue operations.
“On the verge of failure”
One of the disaster’s most gruesome scenes occurred underground on Zhengzhou Metro Line 5.
During the evening rush hour on Tuesday, hundreds of commuters were trapped by the rising waters as murky torrents rushed through the tunnel and infiltrated the cars. Some have posted videos and asked for help online. Dramatic videos showing people hanging from the ceiling handles to keep their heads above rising waters shocked the nation and made headlines around the world. In another video, several bodies could be seen lying lifeless on the platform, as rescuers performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on others.
Authorities said more than 500 passengers were evacuated from the flooded metro line, killing 12 and injuring five others.
On social media and in interviews with Chinese media, some survivors have shared harrowing accounts of how the disaster unfolded on the subway.
By the time they all got back into the metro cars, the water was already up to their size. It continued to rise as water filled the tunnel and seeped through the gaps between the doors of the subway cars.
“We tried to stand on the seats as much as we could, but even then the water ended up reaching our chests,” she wrote. “I was really scared, but the most terrifying thing was not the water, but the decrease in air in the car, as many seemed to have difficulty breathing.”
She overheard another woman giving her family their bank account details over the phone and wondered if she should do the same. She texted her mother, telling her that she “might not be able to do it.” When her mother called back, she was suddenly at a loss for words. She told him that she was still waiting for help and hung up, and spent the next two and a half hours “on the verge of failure.”
Eventually, she passed out from the lack of oxygen, but was later awakened by the vibration of her phone. It was a call from her mother saying her rescue was on the way. At this point, she heard footsteps at the top of the train and the firefighters began to smash the windows to let in fresh air. She heard other rescuers arrive, and one after another they were released – the ones who passed out were sent first, followed by the women, she wrote. His post was then deleted. It wasn’t clear why or by whom – and CNN couldn’t verify his account.
Some have tried calling the emergency lines and asking family and friends for help, but to no avail. By 9 p.m., the water inside the train had reached their throats, she said. There were children, pregnant women, and the elderly in the crowd, and some people around her started to shake, gag and gasp.
“I was really terrified at the time. When I saw the water rising over our heads through the window, I was preparing to accept that I could never get out,” she said. .
With only 30% battery on her phone, she closed all other apps on her device and messaged relatives and friends on Wechat, but she didn’t dare tell her parents, she said. declared. Before 9 p.m., she kept asking them to contact the rescuers. But later on, she mainly arranged for people to take care of things after her death.
Stories of heroism also surfaced, with a widely circulated video showing a man, later identified by state media as Yang Junkui, a former Special Forces soldier, repeatedly diving into floodwaters to save five people, some of whom were trapped underwater in their cars. “I practiced in the military,” Yang told Xinhua. “My mind is to save lives, and I turn my face to save lives.”
“Once every thousand years”?
Further heavy rains were forecast for Thursday, before they are expected to ease on Friday, according to an official with the provincial weather station.
“Rapidly urbanizing areas are experiencing a sharp increase in risks,” said Liu Junyan, climate and energy project manager for Greenpeace in Beijing, in a recent press release accompanying the publication of a report mapping the growing risk associated with the conditions. extreme weather in major Chinese cities.
“Building resilient communities means first identifying groups at risk, whether based on location, income, well-being, housing, employment, medical history or other factors.” , Liu added.
Authorities in Henan said the intensity of the downpour was unprecedented, with more than 20 centimeters (7.8 inches) of rain pouring over Zhengzhou in one hour on Tuesday afternoon, accounting for one-third of the annual rainfall in the region. city recorded last year.