At least 25 people were killed as torrential rain lashed China’s central province of Henan, causing landslides and flooding that partially submerged the underground rail system of Zhengzhou.
About 200,000 residents were evacuated as of yesterday as soldiers led rescue efforts in Zhengzhou – a city of more than 10 million people – where days of rain have inundated the streets and subway, local government officials said.
Images shared on social media on Tuesday showed passengers up to their necks in water and clinging to the handrails inside a carriage on Zhengzhou’s subway. Other passengers filmed videos of the water rising in the tunnels outside the carriage windows.
The provincial capital had “experienced a series of rare and heavy rainstorms, causing water to accumulate in Zhengzhou metro”, city officials said in a Weibo post yesterday.
At least twelve people were killed in the Metro, five more were injured and more than 500 were rescued, officials said.
“The water reached my chest,” a survivor wrote on social media. “I was really scared, but the most terrifying thing was not the water, but the increasingly diminishing air supply in the carriage.”
The dead included four people who were killed in Gongyi city where houses and walls collapsed, the official Xinhua news agency said, adding that rainfall had caused multiple landslides.
Storms have battered Henan province since the weekend in an unusually active rainy season that has caused rivers to burst their banks, flooding the streets of a dozen cities and upending the daily lives of millions of people.
Weather authorities in Zhengzhou, nearly 700km (431 miles) southeast of Beijing, say the rainfall was the highest since record-keeping began 60 years ago with the city seeing the kind of rain it usually gets in a year in just three days.
Some 617.1 millimetres (24.3 inches) of rain fell on Zhengzhou in that time, compared with the city’s annual average of 640.8 mm (25.2 inches).
The amount of rainfall was seen only “once in a thousand years”, local media cited meteorologists as saying.
“People are shocked, trying to register what is happening,” said Al Jazeera’s Katrina Yu, who is in Beijing.
“This is the most rain that many people have seen in their lifetimes. Many have described the situation as ‘terrifying’.”
More videos coming out on the situation earlier on Tuesday night in the Zhengzhou subway. From what I can find now, the majority of passengers got out safely, but unfortunately, some did not.
Overnight, authorities warned the deluge had created a 20-metre (66-foot) breach in the Yihetan dam in Luoyang – a city of approximately seven million people – with the risk that it “may collapse at any time”.
Soldiers were sent to carry out an emergency response including blasting and flood diversion.
As rain continued to fall on Wednesday, thousands of firefighters and troops were deployed to the region to help with search and rescue, and President Xi Jinping went on state television to demand authorities at all levels give priority to ensuring people’s safety, and implement flood prevention and disaster relief measures.