BEIJING: Heavy rain pounded the central Chinese province of Henan on Tuesday (Jul 20), bursting the banks of major rivers, flooding the streets of a dozen cities and shutting the world-famous Shaolin Temple.
Henan, a major logistics hub, has been hit by storms since the weekend in an unusually active rainy season. Train services were suspended, while many highways were closed and flights delayed or cancelled.
In the provincial capital of Zhengzhou, by the banks of the Yellow River, at least three people have died as it braces for further severe downpours.
Unverified videos on social media showed passengers in a flooded underground train carriage in central Zhengzhou clinging to handles as the water surged up to shoulder height, with some standing on seats.
Water could be seen gushing through an empty underground platform in state broadcaster CCTV's footage.
The city's subway operator said in a statement Tuesday that it would close all stations on all its lines due to the bad weather.
Residents were also seen wading through knee-high water to cross submerged street intersections.
At least one person died and two more were missing since the heavy rain started Monday, according to the state-run People's Daily, which reported that houses have collapsed.
Local media reported earlier that two people had been killed when a wall collapsed in another district of the city.
In Ruzhou, a city southwest of Zhengzhou, streets have been turned into torrents, sweeping away cars and other vehicles, footage on social media showed.
A rising Yi River also threatened to hit the Longmen Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage site featuring millennium-old Buddhist statues etched into limestone cliffs near the city of Luoyang.
Like the Longmen Grottoes, the Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng city, famous in the West for its martial arts, has been temporarily shut.
Also in Dengfeng, an aluminium alloy plant exploded on Tuesday as water from a river surged into the factory.
At least 31 large and medium-sized reservoirs in the province have exceeded their warning levels.
From Saturday to Tuesday, 3,535 weather stations in Henan saw rainfall exceed 50mm, of which 1,614 registered levels above 100mm and 151 above 250mm.
The highest was in Lushan city, which saw 498mm of rain, according to the provincial weather bureau.
"This is the heaviest rain since I was born, with so many familiar places flooded," said an Internet user in the inundated city of Gongyi on Chinese social media.
Rain is forecast to stop by Thursday.
Floods are common during China's rainy season, which causes annual chaos and washes away roads, crops and houses.
But the threat has worsened over the decades, due in part to widespread construction of dams and levees that have cut connections between the river and adjacent lakes and disrupt floodplains that had helped absorb the summer surge.
Earlier this month hundreds of flights were cancelled in the capital Beijing and other nearby cities with schools and tourist sites closed as torrential downpours and gale-force winds battered the region.