A central Chinese city has been devastated by floods amid record rain.
In Zhengzhou city, streets have turned into rivers, underground tunnels have become submerged, and floodwaters have crept to the second floor of buildings in some areas. Widespread power outages have interrupted hospital surgeries and left some patients without life support.
The official death toll as of July 20 was 25, a dozen of them from a subway that flooded, with seven missing, regime officials announced on July 21. But residents of the city of 12 million told The Epoch Times they believe the number to be far higher.
A resident surnamed Xie told The Epoch Times that she witnessed people being swept away by floodwaters on the afternoon of July 20.
“Two women were washed away by the flood when they tried to cross the street without help,” Xie said on July 21. “We were standing next to the street, but couldn’t do anything to help.”
Later, she was able to help another two women who were trapped in the waters, latching onto a traffic light pole to avoid being swept away.
“Two men organized us to stand hand-in-hand [to reach the women] and we dragged these two women back,” Xie said.
Another resident, Zhao Ming (a pseudonym), told The Epoch Times that the death toll should be 200 based on reports from his colleagues.
On July 20, more than 500 people were trapped inside a metro after a subway tunnel flooded, according to a state media outlet. Twelve died inside the metro, with five others hospitalized due to injuries, it stated. Videos circulating on social media show passengers in chest-deep water in the dark.
“The water reached my chest,” a survivor with the pen name Qiji Qiyuan wrote on social media. “I was really scared, but the most terrifying thing was not the water, but the diminishing air supply in the carriage.”
Qiji said she witnessed other passengers start to vomit, shake, and breathe heavily. She also passed out for a period due to the lack of oxygen, she wrote. Qiji was rescued after two hours trapped in the car.
Many train services were suspended across the province of Henan, a logistics hub with a population of about 100 million. Highways have also been closed and flights delayed or canceled.
According to provincial authorities, 89 counties have been affected by flooding and 1.24 million people have been displaced.
From Saturday to Tuesday, 617.1 mm (24.3 inches) of rain fell in Zhengzhou, almost the equivalent of its annual average of 640.8 mm (25.2 inches).
The three days of rain matched a level seen only “once in a thousand years”, the Zhengzhou weather bureau said.
While officials blamed the record rain for the devastation, Zhengzhou residents told The Epoch Times they believed that discharged waters from dams and reservoirs have exacerbated the severity of the flooding.
Dozens of reservoirs and dams have breached danger levels in Zhengzhou and nearby regions.
According to a Zhengzhou resident surnamed Li, city authorities on Tuesday afternoon announced that it would discharge reservoirs around the city. But Li said waters were discharged ahead of that.
“I think it’s the discharged water that caused the flooding,” Li told The Epoch Times on July 20.
Zhengzhou City said on July 21 that it started discharging waters from Changzhuang reservoir, lying on the city’s west, at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday. By night time, water levels at the 32-square-mile reservoir dropped 27 inches.
Another of the city’s dams, the Guojiazui reservoir, was breached on early Wednesday, but there was no dam failure yet, according to the regime.
Several rivers in the region are at risk of bursting their banks as authorities on Wednesday said they had reached peak water levels.
One local river broke its banks on Tuesday afternoon, with floodwater inundating nearby fields, Chinese media The Paper reported on July 20.
Reuters contributed to this report.