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Terrified subway passengers in central China clung to ceiling handles in flooded cars on Tuesday and were trapped in rising water as record-breaking rains devastated parts of Henan province.

In Zhengzhou, the provincial capital, where more than 20 centimeters of rain fell in one hour on Tuesday, at least 30 people have been confirmed dead, according to the meteorological observatory.

According to state media, more than 100,000 people have so far been evacuated from Zhengzhou, a city of 12.6 million people on the banks of the Yellow River.

All the recovered bodies were removed from the city’s metro system, according to provincial authorities.

In the nearby town of Gongyi, at least four dead were confirmed and more than 20,000 people had to leave their homes, state media reported on Wednesday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed the floods on Wednesday morning, calling the flood protection situation “very serious” and ordering the authorities to “prioritize the safety of people’s lives and property,” the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

“I can no longer speak, please help”
Footage broadcast by Xinhua and widely shared online shows Zhengzhou passengers trapped in a flooded subway car huddled together as the water rises higher. Outside the window, dark flood water rushes past and rushes down the subway tracks.

Many of the prisoners posted cries for help on social media, as shown by screenshots and statements from the Henan Fire Department posted on the Internet.

“The water in the car has reached chest height! I can no longer speak, please help! ”Wrote a woman named Xiaopei.

Minutes later, she posted another comment, “If there is no rescue in 20 minutes, hundreds of us will lose our lives on the Zhengzhou subway.” The fire department later confirmed that Xiaopei was saved.
The city’s metro system, which includes seven lines and 153 stations, ceased operations after the incident, the provincial authorities said.

Other videos show residents on the street crying to their hips, desperate to pull people out with ropes who are trapped in an underground mall. A clip shared by the state newspaper People’s Daily shows motorists building a human chain on a street to keep them from being carried away by the current as they struggle through rushing water.

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The heavy rains also resulted in blackouts across the city. A hospital that housed nearly 10,000 patients suffered a complete power outage on Tuesday, with social media photos showing the first floor was submerged in water.

On Weibo, a user said the power outage turned off ventilators in intensive care units at Zhengzhou University’s first affiliated hospital. She said her father relied on medical staff to manually pump oxygen into his lungs and pleaded with authorities to restore electricity to the facility.

The national newspaper later confirmed the power failure in the hospital, in which over 600 seriously ill patients would have to be transferred. The newspaper said the power supply had been resumed in the intensive care unit by Wednesday morning.

According to the state broadcaster CGTN, more than 6,000 firefighters and almost 2,000 members of the police and the Chinese military were used for search and rescue operations in disaster areas. Photos from the ground show soldiers and rescue teams rescuing residents on rafts and clearing overturned power lines.

Although the rains have since subsided, the problems are likely to persist as dozens of dams and reservoirs have exceeded warning thresholds.
There have been conflicting reports on the status of the Guojiazui Dam near Zhengzhou, with CGTN initially announcing it collapsed at 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday before appearing later to withdraw its coverage. According to a screenshot quoted by the state-run China Daily, a statement from the Ministry of Emergency Management also said the dam has broken. However, this line has since been removed.

Xinhua reported Wednesday afternoon that “a large section of the downstream slope of the dam collapsed, but the dam itself did not collapse.”

In the city of Luoyang, west of Zhengzhou, Chinese military rushed to blow up a dam and divert the flooding on Tuesday night at the request of the county authorities. Heavy rains had caused a 20-meter-high break in the dam, which, according to a statement by the Central Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army, “can collapse at any time”.

Although flooding occurs annually in parts of China during the summer months, recent record rains have alarmed scientists and officials, raising the question of whether the country is ready to deal with more extreme and unpredictable weather conditions.

A report released by Greenpeace last week warned that large metropolitan areas around Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou-Shenzhen were threatened by extreme heat and rainfall.

According to the report, Beijing is experiencing the fastest increase in average temperature, increasing 0.32 degrees Celsius every 10 years. Guanzhou-Shenzhen has seen 98 heat waves since 1961 – most of them in the past two decades.

Meanwhile, rainfall is much more volatile, fluctuating from highs to lows. The report said that if global greenhouse gas emissions peaked around 2040, extreme rainfall would increase by more than 25% in some parts of China like Shanghai – while other areas like northwest Guangzhou-Shenzhen would experience more drought.

Image credit: CNN

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