Panicked commuters in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou sent terrified messages pleading for help on Tuesday as flooding swept through subway cars, trapping them up to their necks in murky waters.
Twelve died and five were injured in the flooded subway system, provincial authorities said Tuesday, according to a BBC report. In a large operation, about 500 people were rescued from the tunnels.
At least 25 people total have been killed by the extreme weather that brought widespread destruction to the city, a disaster that President Xi Jinping said Wednesday caused “significant loss of life and damage to property.”
Footage from the chaos underground circulated widely on the messaging app WeChat, a key method of communication in the country. Videos showed commuters clinging to poles and handrails as they fought to keep their heads above water.
3/3: More extraordinary scenes from the floods in central China - commuters on the Zhengzhou subway. There are other videos circulating on WeChat that show people in even worse predicaments - appears to be very destructive flooding. pic.twitter.com/hCJYq3ANyU— Bill Birtles (@billbirtles) July 20, 2021
Others stood on chairs and platforms as they anxiously awaited rescue by police officers and firefighters.
The South China Morning Post reported that the tunnels between two particular subway stops — Haitansi and Shakoulu stations on Line 5 — were the hardest hit, with 12 left dead as their train car became trapped in rising floodwaters.
Local media estimated that around 1.2 million residents have been displaced by the record weather, which brought the heaviest rains in 1,000 years.
Other footage showed vehicles being swept down the street and disappearing as emergency crews worked around-the-clock to free those stuck underground.
“Most of those passengers were rescued by teams apparently cutting through the roofs of those carriages. There has also been quite shocking imagery of dead bodies on the platforms of train stations,” BBC News China correspondent Stephen McDonell said.
On Wednesday, Chinese state media shared footage of rescue teams working to help those trapped by the floods.
On some streets, there were scenes of dramatic rescues. On others, residents formed human chains in a bid to stay connected amid powerful torrents.
The flooding comes less than a week after Europe was battered by torrential rains that tore through western Germany, killing at least 165 people and wiping out entire villages. In the town of Verviers in neighboring Belgium, more than 30 people were killed and at least 70 are still missing, according to local media.
Officials estimate the recovery could take years and cost millions of euros in repairs.
Torrential rains also brought flash floods to Britain, sparking severe-weather warnings. In parts of London, a month’s worth of rain fell in just one day.
Sammy Westfall contributed to this report. This report has been updated.