According to state media reports, at least 12 people were killed in a subway in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province, in severe flooding in central China. The floods inundated much of the city and the surrounding area, creating scenes of destruction that suggested the death toll could be much higher.
In the Zhengzhou subway system, floods broke a retaining wall near an entrance to Line 5 that loops around the city center, China News reported. The water flowed into the system between Shakou Road and Haitan Temple stations around 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
Trapped passengers posted videos of water rising to their chest or neck. In one video, water gushed from the windows of the subway car. Other photos and videos – some later apparently removed from censorship – showed several lifeless bodies on a subway platform at Shakou Road station.
“It’s like making a horror movie, my goodness,” you heard a man say in a video who was trapped in a subway car.
The death and destruction in and around Zhengzhou, a city of five million on the Yellow River, certainly seems to be adding to the dire global toll that extreme weather has already taken this year. Researchers have said climate change is causing the scorching heat in the Pacific Northwest, forest fires in Siberia, and flooding in Germany and Belgium.
As a sign of the possible severity of the disaster, China’s leader Xi Jinping ordered authorities to make people’s safety a top priority, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said in a report that described “severe casualties and property damage.” “Mr. Xi described the floods as” very severe “and warned that some dams had been damaged even though the rivers had exceeded the alert threshold.
How many people were trapped in the city’s subway, which went into operation in 2013, which now has seven lines and 148 stations, was initially not clear. The state news media said 500 people had been evacuated and those trapped had been brought to safety.
The entire facility was closed on Wednesday morning
Floods are routine in China and the Communist Party government has taken steps to tame the country’s volatile rivers and streams, but the risks appear to have become more severe, overwhelming drainage systems and rescue efforts, and are testing the leadership. Last summer, China struggled with weeks of flooding along the Yangtze River, killing hundreds and displacing millions more. The rains at that time filled the Three Gorges Dam to its highest level since it opened in 2003.
July 20, 2021 at 11:20 p.m. ET
The government often goes to great lengths to manage disaster information, limit reporting, and censor blogs and social media sites for concerns about public dissatisfaction with prevention and rescue efforts. Some people on Chinese chat platforms and social media sites have already raised the question of whether official news outlets in Zhengzhou and Henan Province initially downplayed the flood in the subway system.
During times of disaster, the country’s state news media often focus on the efforts of rescue workers, including the military, while downplaying the causes of disasters and their damage. A journalism professor, Zhan Jiang, posted a message on Weibo, the social media platform, complaining that a television station in Henan Province was continuing to show its regular programs instead of providing public safety information.
Torrential rain began in Zhengzhou on Sunday and lasted until Wednesday. It was the heaviest on record in the city, according to China’s state television broadcaster CCTV.
At one point the city saw nearly eight inches of rain in an hour. In one day, the region recorded roughly the average annual rainfall. More than 140,000 people had to be evacuated, the reports say.
The downpour flooded streets and railways and disrupted airport operations, reported CCTV. A passenger train carrying 735 people stopped near Zhengzhou for more than 40 hours and was out of food and water. Aerial photographs showed dozens of cars almost covered in muddy water, the fate of their drivers and passengers was unknown.
Videos circulated on the internet showed cars and even people being swept away. At least one hospital, Zhengzhou University’s First Affiliated Hospital, was reportedly inundated by floods, which lost electricity and put patients treated or monitored with electrical medical devices at risk.
Floods have also been reported in several cities near Zhengzhou, where people in WeChat and Weibo, two of the largest social networks in the country, are asking for help. In Gongyi, at least 20,000 people were reportedly displaced by floods, which inundated numerous homes and washed away streets.
Claire Fu, Li You, Liu Yi, and Albee Zhang contributed to the research.