Powerful floods in central China’s Henan province have submerged streets and prompted harrowing rescues amid what Chinese media called the region’s heaviest rainfall in decades.
At least one person had died and two were missing in the province as of Tuesday, according to Chinese media, and more than 10,000 people have been relocated. The death toll is likely to rise.
Clips shared widely on social media show cars floating on the surface of a street that resembles a river. In another, rescuers pull a woman from a torrent of water rushing down what looks like a staircase. Other videos show inundated subway stations and commuters on a Zhengzhou subway car who were up to their shoulders in water. Footage released by the China Fire Brigade documented firefighters evacuating passengers through a subway tunnel Tuesday afternoon.
The flooding ground traffic in the city practically to a halt Tuesday, with more than 80 bus lines and the subway service temporarily suspended. The Zhengzhou airport also canceled 260 flights, according to Xinhua, and some neighborhoods lacked water and electricity. At least one hospital in the area also appeared to have lost power, local media reported.
Dramatic footage taken Tuesday in the city of Dengfeng showed an aluminum alloy factory explode in a ball of flames, after the rising water of the nearby Ying River reportedly caused a factory wall to collapse and water to mix with high-temperature chemicals inside.
1/3 Some really distressing videos coming out of Zhengzhou in central China - this driver looks rather calm under pressure. But other videos on WeChat show what appear to be people clearly struggling to keep their heads above the flood waters. Death toll so far is 1, 2 missing pic.twitter.com/P8dEk1B1iC— Bill Birtles (@billbirtles) July 20, 2021
The state dispatched rescuers to Henan, and weather authorities issued the highest warning level for the province. More downpours were expected in the area in the coming hours.
Heavy rain across the region began in Henan, home to 94 million people, over the weekend, the Guardian reported. Five national meteorological stations broke the historical precipitation record for three days in a row, Global Times reporter Rita Bai wrote on Twitter.
Henan has seen an unusually intense rainy season, according to the BBC. But it isn’t the only part of China experiencing extreme weather. Hotan in the far-west region of Xinjiang saw record-breaking rainfall in June — and in Sichuan province, hundreds of thousands of residents had to be moved this month because of floods and landslides. Authorities also issued flood warnings Sunday for rivers in Guizhou, a province in southwest China.
China’s National Climate Center predicted this month that the country would face “generally poor weather” and extreme weather events this summer, Bloomberg News reported.
Experts and environmental organizations have connected the increase in severe weather events to climate change and China’s rapid urbanization. The environmental advocacy organization Greenpeace warned last week that China’s cities would face hotter summers and wetter rainy seasons because of climate change. Those conditions could cause more dangerous heat waves and heavier flooding in urban areas, Liu Junyan, the climate and energy project leader for Greenpeace in Beijing, told Al Jazeera.
The floods in Henan follow a string of unusually severe heat waves, floods and fires across the world in recent weeks. Flooding in Germany last week killed at least 165 people, and Canada and the Pacific Northwest have seen record-breaking heat and forest fires.
Alexa Juliana Ard and Emily Rauhala contributed to this report.