China Floods: 13 dead, nearly 200,000 evacuated; President Xi Jinping says situation ‘extremely severe’

The already drenched city of Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, was hit by 20 centimetres (8 inches) of rain from 4 to 5 pm on Tuesday.

China Floods: 13 dead, nearly 200,000 evacuated; President Xi Jinping says situation 'extremely severe'
Streets of Zhengzhou, China. (Screengrab of video shared by @ianbremmer on Twitter)

By PTI(AP)

Beijing: At least 12 people have died in severe flooding in a Chinese provincial capital that trapped people in subways and schools, washed away vehicles and stranded people in their workplaces overnight. The already drenched city of Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, was hit by 20 centimetres (8 inches) of rain from 4 to 5 pm on Tuesday, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing the Henan weather agency.

The torrent of rain turned streets into rapidly flowing rivers and inundated subways stations and cars. Videos posted online showed entire neighbourhoods covered in waist-deep water and vehicles floating in the muddy mire.

To the north of Zhengzhou, the famed Shaolin Temple known for its Buddhist monks’ mastery of martial arts was badly hit. Henan province is home to many cultural sites and a major base for industry and agriculture.

Xinhua said 12 people had died and 1,00,000 people had been moved to safer places.

Stranded people were spending the night at their workplaces or checked into hotels.

Wang Guirong, a 56-year-old restaurant manager, said she planned to sleep on the couch in her restaurant after being told there was no power in her neighbourhood. The State Grid Zhengzhou Power Supply Co. said a downtown substation was forced to shut down because of the rain.

“I have lived in Zhengzhou all my life and have never seen such a heavy rainstorm as today,” Wang said.

At least 13 people were killed and nearly 200,000 people have been evacuated from a flood-hit city in central China, local authorities said Wednesday, as dams burst and rivers bulged across Henan province under the heaviest torrential rains in 1,000 years.” As of 7am on July 21, almost 200,000 people were evacuated in an emergency and 36,000 city residents were affected by the disaster,” authorities in Zhengzhou city, Henan province said.

China experiences regular flooding during the summer, but the growth of cities and conversion of farmland into subdivisions has raised the impact of such events.

Chinese President Xi Jinping declared the deadly flooding in central China’s Henan province “extremely severe”, state media reported on Wednesday, as dams burst and rivers swelled beyond embankments.”Some reservoirs had their dams burst… causing serious injury, loss of life and property damage. The flood control situation is extremely severe,” Xi was quoted as saying, adding events were at a “critical stage”.

He also deployed the Army to rescue those trapped in inundated subways, hotels and public places, amid fears of the collapse of a dam posing flood risk to the provincial capital.

The massive floods, described by meteorologists as a once-in-a-lifetime event, has resulted in apocalyptic scenes in the provincial capital Zhengzhou, a metropolis of 12.6 million, with its public avenues and subway tunnels getting submerged with surging waters.

The People’s Liberation Army Central Theatre Command urgently dispatched troops to a county in rain-hit Henan where a dam is under threat of collapse due to serious damage caused by the rains, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The PLA said on its social media account on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform, saying that a 20-meter-long crevasse had appeared in the dam in Yichuan county of Henan Province, and could collapse any time.

Videos posted on Chinese social media showed petrified passengers trapped in subway trains clinging on to safety bars desperately waiting for help as floodwaters raised up to their necks. It was not immediately known what happened to their fate.

Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported 13 deaths in the floods so far while over one lakh people have been evacuated.

More than 160 train services were stopped at Zhengzhoudong Railway Station.

The airport in Zhengzhou cancelled 260 flights into and out of the city, and local railway authorities also halted or delayed some trains.

Affected by the rainstorms, several residential communities in the city are without tap water and electricity.

Both Henan provincial and Zhengzhou municipal meteorological bureaus have raised the emergency response for meteorological disasters to level I. Heavy rains in Henan are expected to last until Wednesday night, according to forecasts.

Weather forecasters described the extreme event as the heaviest rainfall in 1,000 years while hospitals have run out of electricity, the Post reported.

The Zhengzhou flood control headquarters issued a text message on Wednesday, warning residents there was a “grave safety hazard” in the Guojiazui reservoir and calling on them to evacuate the southwestern part of the city immediately.