Unusually heavy rains and massive floods have hit China’s Henan province, overflowing riverbanks, overwhelming dams and the public transportation system, and killing tens of millions.
Twelve people were killed in the provincial capital, Zhengzhou, where more than 20 centimeters of rain fell in an hour on Tuesday. Some 100,000 people have been transferred to shelters, state media Xinhua reported on Wednesday, citing the local government. The rain shut down the city’s subway system, leaving passengers trapped waist-deep in water.
The Zhengzhou flood control headquarters said the water storage in the Guojiazui reservoir was at “higher risk” of dam failure and that the local government was ordering evacuations.
In Luoyang city, local authorities said the rains had caused a 20-meter breach in the Yihetan Dam and that the dam “could collapse at any moment.”
A division of the Chinese army was dispatched to the scene to combat the floods and carry out rescues, authorities added.
Heavy rains in Henan started on July 17. On Tuesday, weather authorities issued the highest level of warning for the province and Chinese weather forecasts expected more severe downpours.
From Saturday to Tuesday, 3,535 weather stations in Henan, one of the most populous provinces in China with 94 million inhabitants, recorded rainfall of more than 5 centimeters. Among the stations, 1,614 registered levels above 10 cm and 151 above 25 cm, authorities said.
Images on social media from China show the world-renowned Shaolin Temple, known for martial arts, as well as other cultural sites, badly affected. Hundreds of residents trapped in Henan asked for help online when floods cut off electricity to their homes.
7 月 20 日晚 ， 郑州 暴雨 地铁 5 号 线 一 车厢 多人 被困 ， 水位 淹过 肩膀。 根据 郑州 地铁 晚上 发布 的 消息 ， 受 持续 影响 ， ， 郑州 地铁 全线 网 车站 已 暂停 服务 ， ， 消防人员正在 救援。 pic.twitter.com/wCiz7TGhki
– The paper 澎湃 新闻 (@thepapercn) July 20, 2021
Floods are common in China’s rainy season, but their impact has worked for decades, due in part to China’s rapid urbanization and the global climate crisis.
Extreme weather events have occurred this summer in many parts of China. Hundreds of thousands of residents in Sichuan province had to be relocated this month due to floods and landslides.
In June, the city of Hotan, in the western region of Xinjiang, registered record rains, prompting a resident to comment on social media that “the rain [this month] it is equivalent to the combined precipitation of the last two years ”.
Greenpeace said the risk of extreme weather was now highest in China in densely populated city centers, but was also growing rapidly on the outskirts of large cities due to rapid urbanization.
Liu Junyan of Greenpeace International told Chinese media: “Due to the highly concentrated population, infrastructure and economic activity, exposure and vulnerability to weather hazards are higher in urban areas. Cities are a major sector of global greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for around 70% of total emissions. ”