China’s Henan province flooded after heavy rainfall

Days of severe rain and massive flooding have hit China’s Henan province, bursting the banks of rivers, overwhelming dams and the public transport system, and forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes.

At least 12 people have been killed in the provincial capital, Zhengzhou. A year’s worth of rain – 640mm – fell in just three days. The city’s weather bureau said more than 552mm of rain had fallen between 7 pm Monday and 7 pm Tuesday, including 202mm between 4 and 5 pm on Tuesday.

About 200,000 people have been moved to shelters, state media Xinhua reported on Wednesday, citing the local government. The rainfall flooded the city’s subway system, collapsed roads, and prompted the suspension of inbound flights.

In the subway system where many of the confirmed deaths are thought to have occurred, waist-high water gushed through the tunnels, submerging platforms and filling carriages. Other videos showed commuters trapped inside carriages holding on to handrails with water up to their chests. At least five lifeless bodies were visible in one clip, filmed at an unidentified Zhengzhou station.

“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 diminishing air supply in the carriage.”

The death toll was expected to rise, with numerous social media posts by loved ones of people missing. In the nearby city of GongYi at least one person was reportedly killed and two reported missing.

In the city of Luoyang, local authorities said the rainfall had caused a 20-metre breach in the Yihetan dam “could collapse at any time”. Early on Wednesday a division of China’s military were sent out to the site to carry out emergency blasting and flood diversion.

Other divisions were sent out across the province to fight the floods and carry out rescues, authorities said.

The heavy rain across Henan began on 17 July. On Tuesday, weather agencies issued the highest warning level for the province and Chinese weather forecasts expected further severe downpours.

From Saturday to Tuesday, 3,535 weather stations in Henan, one of China’s most populous provinces with 94 million people, reported rainfall exceeding 5cm. Among the stations 1,614 registered levels above 10cm and 151 above 25cm, the authorities said.

Greenpeace said the risk of extreme weather was now highest in China in the densely populated city centres but that it was also growing fast for the outskirts of large cities because of rapid urbanisation.

Liu Junyan, of Greenpeace International, told Chinese media: “Because of the highly concentrated population, infrastructure and economic activity, the exposure and vulnerability of climate hazards are higher in urban areas. Cities are an important sector of global greenhouse gas emissions, which account for about 70% of the total emissions.”

Source – The Guardian