Wives’ Search for Loved Ones in China Floods End in Tragedy

By Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao is a Washington-based reporter focused on China-related topics. Before joining the Epoch Media Group in July 2009, she worked as a global product manager for a railway business in Paris, France.
July 28, 2021 Updated: July 29, 2021

In the aftermath of a disaster, searching for, and sometimes finding a lost loved one is the most difficult point on the path to recovery. When deadly floods were inundating the city of Zhengzhou in China on July 20, a local subway line was still in operation. The service was brought to an abrupt halt when it was almost completely submerged under water.

Two widows have shared about what they witnessed at Subway Line 5 on July 20.

Both had found the bodies of their husbands after Zhengzhou Metro agreed to drain floodwaters from its submerged tunnel. While some families still remain hopeful as they continue to search for their loved ones, these two women have already received their tragic closure a week after the disaster.

The flood struck Zhengzhou on July 20, when the regime ordered a nearby reservoir to drain its water just as as heavy rain hit central China’s transportation hub but without alerting the city. Floodwaters entered the still-operating metro system, inundating line 5, which left hundreds of passengers trapped for over two hours in what, for some, became a watery grave.

More bodies have been found among those who were washed away as they tried to flee the metro train or station.

On July 27, the regime announced a total of 14 deaths at metro line 5, which include the husbands of the two widows found on July 25 and 26. On the same day, the Henan Provincial government said that the total death toll of the flood in the province was 71.

It’s unclear how many people are still trapped inside the flood in metro line 5. By press time, a large number of posts for missing persons was posted on the social media group “Henan Heavy Rain Mutual Assistance.”

Last Call Received

Sha Tao, one of the husbands who lost his life on July 26, was several days away from his 34th birthday.

“I finally saw him at the funeral home. He was lying inside a freezer box, marked anonymous. From today, I don’t have a husband, my daughter doesn’t have a father, and our parents don’t have a son,” his wife wrote on her Weibo account, a popular Chinese social media platform. She did not provide her name.

Sha’s wife described the gruesome reality of seeing her husband’s body after five days of water damage.

She had begun her desperate search for her husband on the evening of July 20, calling family members, friends, city officials, police, the media, and posting social media for help. None of the government entities assisted her. She went to different hospitals and funeral homes to search for her husband, but was unable to find her loved one.

She told local news outlet Jimu on July 21: “He called me yesterday afternoon after 6:00 p.m., and asked me to call the police for help.” Sha was riding Line 5 on his way home. As he spoke to his wife, the metro train had stopped between stations, and the floodwater was already ankle deep.

“Then, I couldn’t reach him anymore,” his wife wrote.

“If we—family members—didn’t keep asking Zhengzhou metro to drain the floodwater for rescue efforts, I don’t know when Sha Tao’s body would have been found,” she wrote on Weibo. “Zhengzhou metro made a series of big mistakes … [they] must take major responsibility.”

She continued that the metro company didn’t stop their operations in time, didn’t make efforts to disperse passengers until over an hour after flooding was evident, didn’t report deaths on time, and didn’t make attempts to rescue passengers in good time.

Epoch Times Photo
Rescuers from Jiangsu Province are searching inside metro line 5, which was flooded in Zhengzhou, central China’s Henan Province on July 26, 2021. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

She thanked Sha’s classmates, colleagues, friends, and a large number of online strangers in Zhengzhou for their support. She said that they gave her and her family the clues that they needed to finally find Sha’s body.

Sha Tao is survived by his wife and infant daughter.

The Pain ‘Is Indescribable’

From July 22 to July 25, the sound of a woman’s voice was repeatedly heard on a megaphone resonating through the submerged metro tunnel. Her voice called out his name, “Zou Deqiang, you have never disappointed me! … Hubby, Hold on! I’m coming.”

Zou, 38, had traveled from Shanghai to Zhengzhou for a business trip. His body was found in the subway tunnel on July 25.

The voice on the megaphone was Zou’s wife, surname Bai. She immediately began the nearly 600-mile journey from Shanghai to Zhengzhou on the evening of July 20, hours after realising that Zou was missing.

“I asked for help from police and all the professional rescue groups I could reach, but couldn’t find any support,” Bai told news outlet Qihuan on July 23. “So, I recorded this audio and asked the metro staff to play it inside the submerged tunnel to encourage Zou.”

Bai held onto hope that Zou could survive the flood.

According to Zou’s colleague Wang, they two took the metro together on the afternoon of July 20. They were riding in the last car when floodwater stopped the train between the stations. Seeing the rapidly rising water, Zou, Wang, and other passengers decided to abandon the car and make a break for the station.

The passengers gripped the walls of the tunnel as they moved, while treacherous waters rushed past them. Wang later told Bai that disaster struck when Zou was swept away by the water. Wang was powerless to rescue him.

For the following days after he escaped, Wang reserved himself in silence. Nonetheless, he accompanies Bai in her search for her husband.

“My husband is short and slim. It’s possible that he couldn’t grab the wall. [I] hope they can drain the water out. Maybe my husband is still alive,” Bai said on July 23.

But her hopes were dashed away on the morning of July 25, as Zou’s body was recovered. She said that the pain in her heart “is indescribable.”

Zou is survived by his wife. She did not publicize if they had any children.

Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao is a Washington-based reporter focused on China-related topics. Before joining the Epoch Media Group in July 2009, she worked as a global product manager for a railway business in Paris, France.