A resident wearing a rain cover stands on a flooded road in Zhengzhou, Henan province, China, July 20, 2021. cnsphoto via REUTERS

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A resident wearing a rain cover stands on a flooded road in Zhengzhou, Henan province, China, July 20, 2021. cnsphoto via REUTERS

Large swathes of central China’s Henan Province were underwater on Wednesday, with its capital Zhengzhou the hardest hit after being inundated by what weather observers called the heaviest rains in 1,000 years.

In Zhengzhou, a city of more than 12 million people on the banks of the Yellow River, 12 people died in a flooded metro line while more than 500 were taken to safety, the local government said.

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A video posted to social media on Tuesday showed chest-up commuters in murky flood water on a dark train and a subway station turned into a large, bubbling swimming pool.

“The water reached my chest,” one survivor wrote on social media. “I was really scared, but the most terrifying thing was not the water, but the increasingly reduced air supply in the car.”

Due to the rain, authorities halted bus services because the vehicles are powered by electricity, said a Zhengzhou resident named Guo, who spent the night in his office.

“This is why many people took the subway and the tragedy happened,” Guo told Reuters.

From Saturday evening until late Tuesday, 617.1 millimeters (mm) of rain flooded Zhengzhou – almost on par with the city’s annual average of 640.8 mm.

The amount of rainfall in Zhengzhou observed over the three days was only observed “once in a thousand years,” local media said citing meteorologists.

RIVER RISE

The lives of millions of people in Henan have been turned upside down by an unusually active rainy season which has resulted in the rapid rise of a number of rivers in the vast basin of the Yellow River.

Numerous rail services through Henan, a major logistics hub in central China, have been suspended. Many highways have also been closed and flights delayed or canceled.

Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn operates a factory on the outskirts of Zhengzhou, next to the city’s airport, which assembles iPhones for Apple. Foxconn said it activated an emergency response plan for flood control.

“We can confirm that there has been no direct impact on our facility at this location to date,” he said in a statement.

The roads of a dozen towns were flooded. Videos on social media showed residents wading through the streets in whitewater. A video showed an adult and a child swept away by a main thoroughfare blocked by half-submerged vehicles.

Dozens of reservoirs and dams have also exceeded alert levels.

Local authorities said the rain had caused a 20-meter breach in the Yihetan Dam in Luoyang City west of Zhengzhou, and that the dam “could collapse at any time.”

In Zhengzhou, the local flood control headquarters said the city’s Guojiazui reservoir had been breached.

About 100,000 people in Zhengzhou have been evacuated to safe areas.

“The flood prevention efforts have become very difficult,” President Xi Jinping said on Wednesday, referring to the situation in a statement broadcast by state television.

Zhengzhou’s transportation system remained crippled, with schools and hospitals cut off by congestion. Some children have been trapped in their kindergartens since Tuesday.

Zhengzhou’s First Affiliate Hospital – a large treatment center with more than 7,000 beds – lost all power, and even relief supplies were down, People’s Daily reported.

The hospital was rushing to find transportation to move around 600 critically ill patients.

Heavy rains are expected to persist through Wednesday, although rainfall will continue across the province for the next three days.


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