Beijing – At least 16 people have died after torrential rains caused landslides and inundated a city in central China, with shocking images showing passengers battling chest-high water inside a train car. As the river dikes were breached in record-breaking downpours in Henan province, President Xi Jinping called the situation “extremely serious,” with flood control measures entering a “critical stage.” , official media reported on Wednesday.
About 200,000 residents of the city were evacuated, local government officials said, as soldiers led the rescue efforts in Zhengzhou – a city of more than 10 million people – where days of rain flooded the streets. streets and the metro.
Rainfall in the region was the heaviest since records began 60 years ago, with Zhengzhou recording the equivalent of a year’s average rainfall in just three days.
Thunderstorms swamped the Zhengzhou metro, killing 12 people and injuring five, while city officials said hundreds of people were rescued from the metro.
Heartbreaking images shared on social media showed shocked passengers struggling with rapidly rising waters inside a train car. Rescuers opened the roof of the bus to bring people to safety, local media reported.
Others showed spectacular rescues of pedestrians in Zhengzhou from torrents gushing through the streets.
At least four people were killed in the nearby town of Gongyi where houses and walls collapsed, the state-run Xinhua news agency said, adding that the rains had caused multiple landslides.
Relatives outside Zhengzhou requested information from Weibo in China as communications with the city went down.
“Is the second floor in danger? My parents live there, but I cannot reach them on the phone,” wrote one netizen.
“I don’t know more about their situation. I am in Tianjin and my parents are in Zhengzhou,” she said, only giving her last name Hou when contacted by AFP. “I am very anxious.”
Bad and worse and worse
Authorities have issued the highest level of alert for Henan Province as flooding continues to hit the region.
As the scale of the disaster continued to worsen on Wednesday, the Chinese military warned that a stricken dam about an hour from Zhengzhou city “could collapse at any time” after being badly damaged by torrential storms.
The regional People’s Liberation Army unit said on Tuesday that the relentless downpour damaged the Yihetan Dam in nearby Luoyang town.
On Wednesday morning, the PLA said blasting operations had been carried out at the dam and troops had “successfully opened a new flood diversion opening.”
These measures mean that the water level has dropped and that the “danger has been effectively controlled”.
Soldiers were deployed to other nearby rivers to reinforce dikes with sandbags as flooding spread through Henan and warnings were issued of other dams nearby.
“Some reservoirs have seen their dams burst (…) causing serious injuries, loss of life and material damage,” President Xi Jinping said, according to state broadcaster CCTV. “We have already entered the critical phase of flood control, leaders and cadres from all walks of life must… take the lead in command, quickly organize flood protection forces and disaster relief. “
Annual flooding during the rainy season in China causes chaos and destroys roads, crops and homes.
But the threat has worsened over the decades, in part due to the widespread construction of dams and dikes that cut connections between the river and adjacent lakes and disrupted floodplains that had helped to absorb the surge. summer.
Scientists say climate change is also worsening flooding around the world, alongside other increasingly extreme weather events.