The revised death toll from last month’s flood in northern China’s Henan province has climbed to 302, with 50 people still missing, according to an official statement. Despite the number tripling from last week, locals remain doubtful of the figure.
The new toll, released on Aug. 2 by the Henan press office, includes 292 dead and 47 missing from the worst-hit provincial capital of Zhengzhou.
Zhengzhou, with a population of 12 million, has been one of the worst-hit areas since heavy rains began to fall in the region on July 17. Over the next four days, the city received 617.1 millimeters (24.3 inches) of rainfall, which is almost equivalent to the annual average of 640.8 millimeters (25.2 inches).
Troubling images and videos of people being swept away or drowning in the floodwaters have emerged online, some related to a tragedy on July 20 when Chinese officials claimed that at least 12 people died inside an inundated metro line in Zhengzhou. Authorities said they evacuated more than 500 trapped commuters.
Xue Mingkai, a rights activist, told The Epoch Times on Aug. 2 that many residents believe the actual death toll to be higher since the regime failed to respond to their request for full disclosure and have shown limited efforts to conduct internal investigations.
In an interview on Aug. 2, Chinese rights activist Chen Jianxiong told the Chinese edition of The Epoch Times that he made an on-site investigation at the city’s Jingguang tunnel. So far, local authorities have not publicized how many vehicles were stuck in the tunnel before floodwater submerged it. Chen pointed out that major intersections are equipped with multiple traffic cameras.
Chen said plainclothes police guarded both the entrances and would not allow anyone in. He added that none of the nearby small business owners he spoke to believed the regime’s claims.
“Chinese authorities can say whatever they like,” Chen commented. “The average person has no freedom of expression at all. My WeChat account was banned just the following day after I posted footage about the site that evening on social media.”
However, Chen said that was not the end of his mistreatment. On the same day he returned home, a group of security-maintaining personnel reached out to him and forced him to take a nucleic acid test and a COVID-19 vaccine. “Even the National Health Commission said vaccination is voluntary. Why do you force it on me?” Chen told The Epoch Times.
Chen is currently at home under a forced 14-day quarantine, “they are taking a tit-for-tat action against me,” he said.
A local volunteer who only gave the surname Li also spoke to the Chinese edition of The Epoch Times on Aug. 2, he said he attended rescue activities and helped distribute necessities to flood victims, and said he doubted the regime’s new death toll numbers.
The Epoch Times asked the Zhengzhou Funeral Home about the number of bodies received, but the operator declined to comment.
Frank Fang contributed to this report.