Beijing announced in an online report a revised total death and missing persons toll after it reviewed an investigation of the devastating flooding that hit a central Chinese province last July.
In its 46-page report, China’s top government body ̶ the State Council ̶ elaborated on the severity of the rainstorms, calling them “torrential rains that are rare in history,” while concluding that the flooding was caused by both the extreme weather and negligence of local officials and construction staffers.
Heavy rains hit Henan Province from July 17 to 23 last year, causing reservoirs to overflow. Floodwaters inundated cities and rural areas, submerged subways and tunnels, and swept away people and their property.
According to the local meteorological authority, a record-breaking downpour of more than 201 millimeters (8 inches) was recorded between 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on July 20, 2021.
Zhengzhou, the capital city of the province, was soon flooded, with the water level rising to waist height by the afternoon. Despite the flooding, the subway system and underground tunnels remained in operation.
There were videos and messages online of desperate passengers and drivers trapped in Subway Line 5 and Jingguang Highway Tunnel, begging for help. Both local and central government reports gave a final death toll of 14 people in the subway Line 5 and six people in the tunnel.
According to the State Council report, top leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, gave “important instructions” and 16 other state leaders also gave instructions and “made express demands” for flood control and disaster relief during the crisis last year.
It went on to blame local officials for their “negligence and dereliction of duty” when they failed to act with awareness to the risks, which Beijing said was in part responsible for to “the casualties in the subway and the tunnel that were not supposed to take place.”
It went further to say that local officials at different levels “delayed to report and concealed death tolls and missing people at different stages,” with a total of 139 deaths or missing persons being concealed or delayed for reporting. The city of Zhengzhou concealed 75 cases, county-level authorities concealed 49, and township or neighborhood communities concealed 15, the report said.
The report did not give details of the names of the victims of the flood, nor did it explain how many cases were newly found in the central government’s investigation, which reported a death and missing persons toll of 398.
Death Toll Questioned
In July 2021, an article was published on Secret China, an independent overseas Chinese language media, which analyzed the daily operation data of Zhengzhou’s subway company.
According to the article, like the tunnel company, the subway company had advanced surveillance technology and equipment. In addition, passengers had to swipe their metro cards to enter or exit the subway station, giving the subway company a detailed database of the number of passengers. The report noted from Chinese media that over 1.2 million passengers traveled by subway on July 20, with Line 5 being the busiest line, transporting over 374,000 passengers on the day. There were 91 trains submerged by flood waters on that disastrous day.
The State Council’s final death toll for subway Line 5 and the tunnel remain the same as that reported by local governments last year—14 deaths in the subway and six deaths in the tunnel.
The regime blocked people mourning dead or missing loved ones, and detained a photographer and a mourner outside a subway station in Zhengzhou after the subway tragedy last year.
China current affairs commentator Tang Jingyuan said on Jan. 22 that it was “unrealistic to expect Li Keqiang [the premier] to release the true data.”
“If the real data, which could be huge, is to be released, those who are to be held accountable will not be limited to the CCP’s secretary of Zhengzhou City,” Tang said. “Henan provincial leaders and even the Chinese premier himself will most likely be held accountable [for the disaster].”
It has been common practice for the CCP to cover up death tolls of man-made disasters.
According to the press release on the council’s official website, eight people, including staffers in charge of construction at the subway line and the highway tunnel, have been arrested by the police “suspected of violations of law and crimes” over the Henan flooding disaster. Meanwhile, 89 government officials are being investigated by the CCP’s disciplinary committee.
Gu Qing’er contributed to the report.